Thursday, February 25, 2010

Soup and stocks

In his book Ratio, Michael Ruhlman makes the proposition that it is stocks that separate good home cooks from great home cooks.

A good can always use canned broth, but homemade stocks are easy, inexpensive and really do add to the taste of food. They also add character and body to the dish.

I use two easily prepared stocks.

Recipe 25a Basic Chicken Stock

Bones from a cooked chicken (home roasted or rotisserie)
1 large onion
2 or 3 carrots
celery stick
add any additional spices you like or add them later

Put bones and leftover attached meat in a 2 or three quart. Add the other ingredients and cover with water. The basic ratio for stock is 3 parts water : 2 parts bones. Three pints of water will weigh 1 1/2 pounds. That pairs with the approximate pound of bones from one chicken. Exact ratios are not critical. Cook on low heat - 190 or a very low simmer for several hours. Strain or pour off the liquid. It can be used or frozen. Cooled gelatinous stock can be spooned into freezer bags. Freeze in sizes useful to you.

Once frozen stock is available, soup is easy. Just add some chicken, and pasta, or vegetables.

Recipe 35b Beef Stock
3 pounds water (3 pints)

2 pounds roasted bones

If the bones are not cooked, roast them first. Put bones in a roaster and add the vegetables. It is not necessary to peel the vegetable since they will be discarded. In fact thrifty cooks use peel, tops and otherwise unused vegetables for flavoring stock. Good beef stock requires some meat. About a third of the bone weight should be from meat. You may wish to add a bit of inexpensive cuts to the pot.

Start roasted bones in cold water and bring to 190 degrees or a very low simmer. Cook for several hours. Like the chicken stock, beef stock can be used immediately or frozen in conveniently sized packages. The stock makes a wonderful braising liquid or soup base.

Some fresh bread, four or five onions and homemade stock, all come together for the best French onion soup you will ever have.

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