Thursday, August 28, 2008

vegetable stock: an experiment.


Some of you might know that since my first beautiful batch of chicken stock, I've gone a little stock crazy. Buying whole chickens has put a big dent in our grocery bill- it's awesome! Instead of spending 8 bucks on organic chicken breasts for one or two meals, we buy a whole bird- split it up into portions for a few different meals that week, freeze some, and make stock out of the rest. I seriously recommend it. Now that we're doing that, we keep stock veggies on hand all the time- carrots, celery, onion, pretty much. Of course, sometimes, the veggies start to get floppy and gross, and if we don't feel like making stock RIGHT THEN- we usually just pitch them. Last time I noticed them losing their sheen, however- I pulled a sneaky move. I tossed them in the freezer to be used later. (My husband doesn't like using odds & ends for stock- he says, "Your stock pot is not a garbage can!" Whatever, dude! You'll thank me when you taste what I made.)


Last time Jason and I hit the farmer's market, we splurged on some local cheeses. Jason picked out a smoked gouda, and I picked out a dill havarti. Both were delicious, but the havarti disappeared in practically no time at all, leaving us with the bacon-y gouda hanging out in the dairy compartment of our fridge. The smoked gouda didn't have a wax rind like regular gouda, just a brown smokey crust around the edges that was too strong to eat. Every time I opened the fridge and smelled it, I'd close my eyes and think- THERE MUST BE SOMETHING I CAN DO WITH THIS.


Today I was poking around and I was suddenly struck with inspiration- a smokey vegetable stock, perfumed with the rind of that delicious cheese! How could I NOT give it a go? I've used parmesan rinds to flavor my stocks with great success, why not throw in some gouda? I chopped up my frozen, wilty vegetables (whatever, Double J!) and liberal amounts of garlic and onion, and got some stock going. I figured I'd let it go for awhile as I pondered the possibilities of adding the gouda. I knew it would immediately melt on contact with the hot water. I didn't have any cheesecloth handy, but eventually it dawned on me- I could just dump out some tea bags and use them like little sachets! I chose the least offensive-smelling tea in my jar, just plain chamomile. After I removed the contents, a slight flowery smell remained, but it was completely overpowered by the smokiness of the gouda, so no big deal. I tied off the ends, dropped it into the stock, and in no time, my house was filled with a rich, heady aroma.


Want a recipe? I didn't really follow one, I just tossed a bunch of stuff in there:

1 medium to large sized yellow onion
3 carrots (mine were pretty long and skinny)
4 or so celery stalks
a lot of garlic. Like almost a whole head of garlic cloves, just smashed
8 cups of water
3 bay leaves

I preheated my pot to medium-high heat, and tossed in the onions & garlic first. I wasn't paying very close attention and the pan was pretty hot, so the onions ended up getting a little bit of color on them. I think that's part of the reason my stock is so rich and dark- so no complaints. Then I added the (still mostly frozen) celery and carrots, and let it all sweat for a minute or two before I dumped 8 cups of cold water over the top. I dropped in 3 bay leaves, and a teeny pinch of salt. Brought it up to a quick boil, and then turned it down to simmer so that little bubbles came up from the bottom to barely break the surface. I let it go for about 2 hours before I added the gouda sachets, and then let it go for another hour and a half or so, for a total of about 3.5 hours. 8 cups of water reduced to about 3 cups of stock.


Now the fun is trying to decide what to make with it! My first thought was some kind of smokey corn chowder with poblanos and bacon, but now I'm toying with the idea of cheddar beer soup. I think I'll just freeze it and wait for inspiration to strike during the cold months, when I'm craving something thick and rich. And I'd love to try it with other kinds of softer cheeses too, like sharp cheddars or manchego or something. Dang!


The Fabulous One said...

I almost got up and danced when I read this. I love making soups and stocks, and I'm going crazy for fall. My inner October baby is just giddy for some crunchy leaves! I've been thinking about starting to store away some goodies for the coming months, and this is the catalyst I've needed. Now I just wanna hit the farmers market and start baking and chopping and freezing and... gah! Look what you've done! ;P

Lacey said...

hmm this sounds like something fun to try. I see you have it in a mason jar there - is that an old reused one or do you need a new one - like with the peaches, for a fresh seal? Do you just throw it in the freezer like that and then thaw it out when you want to you it later? Thanks

Alicia Carrier said...

lacey- that mason jar is actually an old classico spaghetti sauce jar. whenever we buy that sauce, we save the jars. they're my favorite jars, actually! they hold just about 3 cups of liquid. I imagine if you could find rings and lids to fit, you could can with them, but i've never tried. i just use the original screw-top lid that came with the classico. i don't try to preserve stuff in these jars, i just use them for stock. so, i pour the hot stock into the jar, let it cool for about half an hour on the counter (or if i have to go somewhere, i just throw it into the fridge, sans lid) and then put a lid on it and either use it right away, or pop it in the freezer for later. of course, if you freeze it, you want to leave a little space at the top for expansion, or else your jar will crack.

hope that helps!

Jennifer Carden said...

Brilliant about the cheese sachets. I make all our stock and when I make soup I add our old parmesan rinds. Your sachet idea is great because no one gets the lump of cheese, although it is kind of a good prize. I will try this, thanks.

rosedarpam said...

alicia- I'm a first time visitor and found you at tastespotting. I loved your exuberant style of writing. Please tell your husband that if the end result tastes good, what difference does it make if you have used a relatively strange combination. When I was a young mom I would make "clean the refrigerator soup" with bits and pieces that needed to be used combined with one of my vast collection of frozen stock. At that time , it was a necessity. I no longer have to do this but I continue to do so. Your use of the cheese rind was brilliant, and I could kick myself for not thinking of it first. The chinese have a technique for stock that is repeatedly used with many different kinds of foods. They keep the stock on a low burner for years. They believe it retains the "ghost" flavor of everything that has ever been cooked in it. I first encountered it at a restaurant in Hong Kong. I,too, have a ghost stock that is 18 years old. I do not keep it on the burner, I just freeze it. One last tip: when cooking vegetables as a side dish, poach them in water, then save the poaching water. Add it to your vegetable stock, or freeze it as ice cubes. The stock cubes can be added to a saute pan,after you have removed the food you saute. Deglaze the pan with the melted stock, and maybe some wine, then reduce it, then thicken with a beurre manie.

Sandy Smith said...

This is a fantastic idea - I can't wait to give it a go! I actually have a package of stuff-your-own tea sachets, which I bought at my local health food store for making homemade herbal tea. I suppose you could also roll up a coffee filter and tie the ends shut tamale-style, if you didn't have a mild tea on hand.

Thanks so much for this truly creative idea!

Chefs said...

Alicia you're a genius, this is truly a fabulous idea!
We'd like to feature your tip on Chef's Tip. The best part is you don't even need to register or sign up. Please email me at chefstip (at) gmail (dot) com if interested. Thank you :-)