Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Stock and Poultry Stock

“Waste not, want not.”
- Old Klingon proverb

I think like most people, we’ve found ourselves with too many groceries and too little time to prepare them, which means we’ve had to throw some away. That is a feeling of defeat for me. I know there’s no way we can plan out exactly what groceries and ingredients we’ll need so the day we run out of the very last thing it’s time to go shopping again. There’s going to be some overlap, or life gets in the way and things go bad.

I guess it’s more disappointing than anything else. I’m disappointed in myself because I had some grand scheme for this item when I bought it, I had the best intentions, but I didn’t make the time for it now it’s garbage. Anyone who knows me could tell you I’m somewhat of a tightwad, so it’s especially upsetting to me because I feel I’m throwing money away. But that’s not the only thing that distresses me.

As I open the garbage to throw out limp celery or too-moldy cheese or slimy salad greens, I think about all the people and work it took to bring that food to the store and then my home. Farmers got up at the crack of dawn, soil was dug up, backs ached, livelihoods struggled to be made, and that chicken breast that stayed in the fridge too long? That used to belong to an actual living chicken that had to die so I could eat.

There are plenty of ways you can use, reuse and stretch the groceries you buy to get the most bang for your buck and be responsible with them as well. This isn’t new; your parents and grandparents and on down the line went to greater lengths just to make ends meet. Things like making jams, canning vegetables, pickling and curing, and a myriad of other delicious deeds were done to make the most of what they had and make sure they wouldn’t be without in the leaner times. While I’m not asking that you take up all that stuff right now, I think one procedure will give you the “stretching and saving” bug enough to get you started: making your own stock.

It’s amazing the difference in the stock and broth you make at home compared with the cans or boxes you get at the store. Really, there’s no comparison. Not only will it be more full of flavor, but it will be as complex or simple, strong or subtle, light or rich as you want it to be. I get an extreme amount of satisfaction when we get the ingredients together for our sautéed mushroom risotto (which is coming up next) and the first thing we reach for is our homemade vegetable stock out of the freezer.

Roasting a chicken for dinner? Pick all the meat you can off the carcass, wrap it up and freeze it for broth. Did a hunter give you duck breasts still connected to the breast bone? Add those in with your chicken carcasses. Carrots leftover from making soup? Celery getting too limp to schmeer peanut butter on? Using the leaves of parsley and thyme but not the stems? Making mushroom risotto and need remove the mushroom stems? Don’t throw them out! Start saving up your scraps for stock and save yourself a bundle.

Roasted Vegetable Stock and Poultry Stock

These recipes are adapted from Emeril Lagasse and Alton Brown, respectively. There are about as many ways to make stock as there are vegetables growing in the ground. These are my favorites, but adapt whichever one you like to use whatever ingredients you have on hand. By the way, make sure you have a balance of vegetables in your veg. stock. If you use more carrots than anything else your stock will turn orange. Still delicious, just orange. Trust me on this.

Vegetable Stock:

I love the extra flavor you get from roasting the vegetables first, but if you’d rather not or if you prefer a more subtle flavor, just skip the roasting and continue as directed. You can use a whole lot of different vegetables, or just a few. At the very least use carrots, celery, onions, garlic and herbs. Others that would work well are: turnips, parsnips, tomatoes, zucchini, fennel, corn cobs, bell peppers, and so much more!


2 large yellow onions, quartered
2 leeks, green and white parts, well rinsed
Mushroom trimmings, wiped clean
4 carrots, quartered
4 ribs celery, quartered
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally, unpeeled
8 to 10 peppercorns
4 thyme sprigs
8 parsley stems
2 bay leaves
2 cups white wine (optional)
Olive oil
Cold water to cover


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large roasting pan, spread out all the veg. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper, stirring to coat. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to brown evenly. (The dark green leek leaves and mushroom stems will roast a lot faster than everything else, so if they start getting too brown take them out early.) Remove from the oven and transfer to a large pot. Add the water, herbs and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming to remove any foam that rises to the surface. Add the optional wine and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Cool in an ice bath, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes.

Poultry Broth:

4 pounds chicken carcasses (Ours included bones from roasted chicken, duck breastbones, and the backs of these Cornish game hens)
1 large onion, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut in half
4 ribs celery, cut in half
1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
8 to 10 peppercorns
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
Cold water to cover

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Set opened steamer basket directly on ingredients in pot and pour over water. (This step is a great addition by Mr. Brown. The steamer basket keeps everything submerged and makes skimming scum a whole lot easier. However, if you’re like me and don’t own a steamer basket, proceed as normal and just do your best to keep the solids under water.)

Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the scum from the stock with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour of cooking and twice each hour for the next 2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.

Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes.