So many cookbooks, and believe me, in the Bungalow, there are so many cookbooks, begin with recipes for stock. They do this because many of the recipes that will follow will call for stock. Stock comes in handy for so many recipes. Want to braise meat. Have stock. Make a sauce or gravy, better have stock first. In addition, stock transforms otherwise boring things. Take rice. Switch water to stock and you have pilaf, and rice that can stand as a meal. Or potatoes. Roast them with stock for pommes boulangere, which will surprise you with its depth of flavor. Really, cook anything in stock and you get more body, heightened intensity. That’s why they tell you to make stock first. What they don’t tell you is when to make stock.
You would think that a person who paid enough attention to make their own stock would also pay attention to wanting to know when to make their stock. Sure, you could walk into a grocery store of flown in foods and get what you need to make stock any time of year. Yet, if you’re the kind of person who wants quality ingredients, the kind that come from farmer’s markets and CSAs, you do not always have the ingredients coming for stock. Now you do. At this time of year, you have access to all the basics for good stock. You have onions, you have celery, you have garlic, you have carrots. You have stock. Believe me, in a few months, you won’t have easy access to those kind of things (absent your own root cellar), so make stock now. It freezes well. Make stock and freeze it in assorted containers to meet different potential needs.
There’s another reason why now is the time to get stocked. Besides having ready access to the building blocks of a good stock, there’s a decent chance your family is like this Local Family, and that is also having the rotting pieces to good vegetable stock. I mean you may have soft tomatoes, old peppers, gnarly lettuces, leftover chard stems. All of that makes for excellent vegetable stock. As I wrote a long time ago, stock is they best way to use your dying vegetables.
For me, it’s an especially good week to think about vegetable stock because this week my Tomato Mountain CSA* includes fennel. I have several things I might do with the fennel flesh, but I have only one thing I know I can do with the tough fennel fingers, use in stock. Because you strain and turn to compost the fixings of your vegetable stock, it makes no nevermind of you could ever chew it in the first place. You just need to extract its flavor. And I think that the anise flavor of fennel adds an important element to vegetable stock (absent any fennel, I typically throw star anise into my vegetable stock mix).
All those cookbook authors want you to make stock. They know that you need it to make their recipes. I know that if you have stock you will eat well. I also know that you need to make stock now. Between what’s in the market and what’s in your fridge rotting, you should be making stock now. Get to work.
*My wife works for Tomato Mountain