Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Little Love and TLC....Trust Me, Your Worth It

Everyone is always seeking a short cut in attempt to save time. As New Yorkers we feel that we are at a constant race against the clock. It's a shame since we tend to miss out of the most simplest, yet satisfying things. The downfall of this is that we tend, whether we admit it or not, to settle. We can all think of examples of when we do, be it our jobs, our lifestyle, our choices, or our eating habits. At times for instance we settle for fast food or take out because again, we "have no time to cook." Instead we settle for the deli on the corner, for McDonald's, or anything that "gets the job done." Again, a shame. Don't get me wrong there are times when we are all at a pinch, and desperate measures cause us to do what we must. But, if we could make the time to make slight changes the outcome would be far enjoyable. Take for instance stock.

Yesterday I was teaching a class at Camaje and during our talks a client mentioned the can of stock she picks up at the local market. I had to break the news to her. First, the brand and can she was referring to was not stock at all. It was broth. I then explained the difference: While both may involve the simmering of veggies, herbs and meat, a stock includes the bones. The bones add body to what would be otherwise a broth. Since bones provide gelatin, a good stock should be gelatinous--it should basically have a Jello-like appearance. Now that we cleared that up, we can think of the boxed stock we also see at the market priced at $3.50 or more depending on the brand. Usually the texture seems broth like, the biggest visual difference is that the boxed stock appears a bit amber or deeper in color. The lack of body is a problem. Secondly, the amount of salt is outrageous, even in the low sodium versions. This makes flavoring a recipe difficult since you have to taste the stock you are working with to actually determine how much salt you can add in your recipe. This places limitations on the cook. So what is a busy person supposed to do? Well how about make your own stock.

I, considering my new late work schedule have the luxury of having the day to myself, so making a stock that simmers for 3+ hours works with me. In case you would like to give this a try here is what I do.

1. Take a large deep tall pot and fill with chicken parts (wing tips, backs anything fatty)
2. Add veggies. Think mirepoix=carrots, onions, celery. Don't bother peeling or dicing. Snap the carrot, celery in half as is and the onion cut down the middle. Toss in smashed garlic--skins on. If you have leeks, scallions add those too.
3. Throw in herbs like thyme and parsley stems (avoid harsh herbs like rosemary, again you want to control the taste and use this base in diverse recipes). Add about 6-10 whole peppercorns and a small pinch of salt.
4. Fill with cold water to cover. Simmer. The heat should form bubbles up top showing that things are actually happening in the pot, but low enough to to prevent it from boiling or having vigorous bubbles.
5. After a few hours strain. Fill into quart containers (Chinese food take out plastic containers come in handy!!!) and put some in ice trays that you will only designate to this. This allows you to dump a bit in if a recipe only calls for a small portion of stock. Once cool REFRIGERATE! Or Freeze the remaining portions. You DO NOT want to leave this out sitting around--DANGEROUS.
6. Add to your favorite recipes. Make pan sauce, add as a base in rice dishes, replace water with stock in certain dishes to add another dimension and if nothing else make chicken soup!

But if this is way more time that you have, simmer for less time. Trust me it has to beat the taste you get in the box (or the can for that matter) just for the simple fact that it gives YOU--the cook--control of the flavoring. In a NY Times article, Mark Bittman states: "Simmer a carrot, a celery stalk and half an onion in a couple of cups of water for 10 minutes...; if you have any chicken scraps, even a half-hour of cooking with those same vegetables will give you something 10 times better than any canned stock.”

Point is, we are all busy people. We all work hard....but we should play hard to....otherwise is it really worthwhile? By putting in a bit of effort the possibilities are endless. So make stock and enjoy one of cooking's most essential flavors--You owe it to yourself!

No comments: