Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Anatomy of a Soup

OK, so this blog post was supposed to go up over a week ago, and I had all these lovely pics arranged perfectly, but then I started to mess with the html to make everything line up nicely, screwed up my tables, and then accidentally erased everything. A sad emoticon cannot even begin to communicate my frustration and mounting inner rage.

But... I am determined!  I will not let html and blogger combine to defeat me. I will deliver a post with lots of lovely pictures, despite the fact that taking pics is kind of a challenge with my li'l point and shoot and the other fact that writing comes a lot more easily to me than visual aesthetics. To the post!  

farmers market stitching in circles
<< biking home with fronds of fennel from the SB farmer's market >>

(Warning: very non-vegetarian material ahead)

One of the wonderful things (and I don't really mean that sarcastically, mostly) about having champagne tastes on a beer budget is that I get to figure out the thriftiest ways to have the highest quality, best tasting foods and drinks in my life. I like the puzzle aspect of budgeting, I have to say. One of the ways I try to balance my income with my tastes is to buy meat rarely, but when I do, to buy it from the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market (link in the lefthand column of the blog). This is expensive, admittedly, but I buy whole organic chickens and the cheapest cuts of really great local, free range beef, and then roast/braise/whatever in order to make it succulent and delicious. But the next step is what really makes me feel like I am getting the most out of my commitment to buying local, well-treated animals: making stock.

PDK made an amazing oxtail stew  recently(let me know if you can't see the recipe that links to, since the NY Times has put up a stinking pay wall recently), and there were tons of gorgeous cartilage and marrow left on the bones after dinner. Lots of good connective tissue makes stock more flavorful and thicker.

How to Make Your Own Beef Broth

Step One: Have an extremely deep pot.

Step Two: Fill said pot with bones, cooked or uncooked, and cover completely with water. Don't add too much water or you'll dilute the flavor.


kitchen stitchingincircles
Step Three: Bring to a boil and then immediately once it boils turn down to a simmer and skim off the froth that has risen to the top (this basically makes the broth clearer).

Step Four: Cook the bones for a while at a bare simmer (as in, barely simmering -- just one or two bubbles at a time coming up from the bottom of the pot). If the bones have lots of good gristle on them, I'd say cook beef bones for three to four hours before you even think of adding the vegetables, because you don't want the veggies to fall apart and cloud the broth. With chicken bones, you could put the veggies in sooner, even immediately after turning the broth down to a simmer.


cooking stitchingincircles beef broth stitching in circles
Step Five: Add hearty vegetables. These can be older, limp veggies, since you won't be eating them. I added three to four cloves of garlic in their skin and some old, limp carrots (I took their fronds off). With beef broth, you can add stronger-flavored vegetables, but I decided to keep it simple this time. I added the carrots and a couple ribs of celery. If I had a turnip around or an older fennel bulb, I would have used them instead.

Step Five, continued: Always add some kind of onion -- it can even be some onion you roasted from the night before if you want darker flavors. I popped a couple small leeks in, but you could chop a yellow onion into quarters or just use a handful of green onions.

stitching in circles

stitching in circles etsy
Step Five, further continued!:  Herbs are key, but don't add too much or they will overwhelm your juicy, meaty bones. I tied up some fresh thyme, peppercorns, a little cardamom and cumin in a piece of cheesecloth (this little bag is again to keep the broth as clear as possible). You can use whatever herbs you like. Remember to add salt, but also keep in mind that there will be a lot of reduction, so salt as if there were half as much broth.

stitchingincircles

stitching in circles how to broth

Step Six: Bring back up to a boil after adding all your veggies and herbs, then drop back down to a bare simmer again and partially cover. I simmered my broth for a total of eight hours, in the end. With chicken broth, you want to only simmer for four hours, or so.


how to beef broth stitchingincircles

how to recipe stitching in circles
Last step! Strain and cool.  If you put it straight in the fridge, be mindful that it will raise the T of the fridge, so you might want to leave it on the counter to cool for a while, or place the bowl with the broth in it into a larger tray or bowl full of ice water to quickly cool the broth.  Skim the fat off after it cools and firms as a skin on top of the broth. My beef broth in the picture above is super thick and rich, and has very little fat after it has been skimmed.

I used this broth and kale and eggs from the farmer's market a couple days later to make a yummy and cheap egg-drop soup with healthy, dark greens. PDK, who loves spicy food, punched it up with soy sauce and a chili-garlic sauce, which I totally understood and actually embraced for once. Sometimes I get offended that he feels the need to totally change the food I make even when I think it's delicious, but simple clean flavors sometimes aren't enough for his palate.

I can  improvise any stock pretty well at this point, but when I was first learning to make stock about five years ago, I used a cookbook that I heartily recommend to all of you interested in cooking from scratch. Being a good Bay Area girl, I love me some Alice Waters. I have three of the Chez Panisse cookbooks (and a nonfiction book about the restaurant as well... yeah, I am obsessed), but the cookbook I turn to most often in the kitchen is her recent Simple Foods, which gives outlines and bare bones recipes, allowing the reader to learn the basics and then personalize them to his or her tastes. Also, it is built tougher than the other CP cookbooks, so it has stood up well to spilled wine, sticky hands, and splattering oil.

10 comments:

FabricFascination said...

Looks delicious. I like to eat, but cooking, not so much. Thankfully, my children like to cook, and they make meals like this.

Amanda said...

Is that a picture of your bike? It is a totally GORGEOUS photo! I want to frame it and hang it on my wall! :)

CremeMagnolia said...

Great tutorial, I'll have to try making beef stock now! Your newest follower from EBT, welcome!

Lulu Grey said...

This post made me SO hungry for a good bowl of soup. Great photos, too!

Frances via il*mostro said...

oOOooOhhh what an interesting post!! i've never made stock from scratch before.. its a little intimidating ^_^ my boyfriend and I have yet to work our budgeting out when it comes to groceries... i like the way u put it (like a puzzle) I will have to check for the farmers markets around here and really get working on our own puzzle!

Janet said...

Ugh--so sorry about the lost post but glad you redid it. Your photos are amazing and it was a fun read. Thanks!

Tina S said...

@ Amanda -- yeah, that''s my sweet little commuter bike! I am so glad you like the picture of the bike in front of our house. Our house is a place where nature and the human come together, as you can see -- the plants are trying to take over!

My Hideaway said...

I sympathize with you about the html/blogger frustration. You'd think by now they'd have developed an extremely user friendly way to make a web page. I remember studying html back in 1999, and everyone thought that by now it would be just like word processing. Not so. And I've forgotten all the code I used to know, so now I mostly just fumble along!

HarmlessColor said...

I LOVE fennel.

Niftic Vintage said...

I could have soup for dinner every night of the week. Great stuff!

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