Cooking 101: Vegetable Stock
Time passes. Thing change. Like it or not, we grow…. older. And so do our kids.
Just a few years ago I was crying in my soup (pun intended) because my one and only child was heading off to college. It wasn’t quite as horrible as I imagined. I had done most of my carrying on, worrying and grieving beforehand. So much so, that it came close to being a non-event. But that’s my style. Fear forward. If you can catastrophize ahead of time, go for it. Get the worst over with before it even happens. I don’t recommend that approach. And maybe, just maybe, this time I’ve learned my lesson. As it is turning out, Homer Simpson was right. It’s all good.
Although I have reckoned with my redundancy in the job of parenting, I still have some mopping up to do. For instance,
, with one more year to go, still doesn’t know how to cook. And I can safely say, many of his friends do not either. That is why I am introducing some fundamental recipes on this blog. They may not be over-the-top exciting, but they are necessary. If you want over-the-top exciting—of course you do if you’re in your twenties—you still have to know the basics.
So, welcome twenty-somethings and your parents who are still fuzzy on the details (it’s never too late).
Please ask questions or send me requests. I hope to make it easy for you to learn to cook something satisfying to sustain you through the times ahead. Whatever roller coaster you ride, and you will be on one, you gotta eat.
I recently noticed that many cookbooks, even the tsunami of new vegetarian cookbooks, do not have recipes for vegetable stock. Mysterious. It is convenient to opt for vegetable stock in cans or boxes from the market (and that must be the assumption behind the mystery), but I maintain you should save your money and either skip it (use water and vegetables in your soup if you’re vegetarian) or make your own. Do you use pre-fabbed vegetable stock? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. I think it’s awful. Disagree? Convince me.
Left front, light stock made with mushrooms; right, rich stock
About vegetable stock:
Three reasons to make your own stock:
1. Store bought stock tastes like dishwater.
2. Food you make with store bought stock tastes like it is made with dishwater.
3. Store bought stock tastes like dishwater.
BUT: I don’t have room to store it or a pot big enough to make it.
The recipe makes 2 quarts. It can be frozen. You can make half a batch. If you have room, double the batch, and optimize time spent on making it.
BUT: I don’t have time to make stock.
I’m not going to lie. Making stock takes time. Do you watch t.v? Multi task. Take ten minutes to throw some vegetables in a pot and cover them with water. Watch your favorite show. When the Mad Men episode is over the stock is ready.
BUT: I hate all that chopping and peeling.
You don't have to be too precise in the chopping; the aim is just to get the pieces small enough (1-2 inches) so you can extract maximum flavor out of them. It's more like hacking than chopping. Just rinse the vegetables. You don't need to peel, though it is easier to cut onions if they are peeled.
These are not rules; they’re guidelines.
The short version
: cut up carrots, celery, onions, etc. Cover with water. Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Strain. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.
Two kinds of stock
Light vegetable stock:
The vegetables are covered with water, some part of which can be white wine (2 cups to 10 cups water for example). This is good for delicate soups or risottos that need a flavor boost.
Rich vegetable stock:
The vegetables are roasted in the oven first, for a darker, more intensely caramelized flavor. Good for winter stews and hearty risottos or farro dishes.
Vegetables to use in stock
As you will see from the ‘recipe’ much of what you might ordinarily throw away can go into stock, especially if you are a Frugal Frieda and tuck away bits and pieces in your freezer. Vegetables that are on their last legs are sometimes the best candidates for stock because as they dry out their flavors become more concentrated. Day-old mushrooms, for example, are a steal at the grocery store. Avoid vegetables with overpowering flavors in your stock. Yes, you are using stuff you might throw away otherwise, but not everything.
Good for stock Not good for stock
Onions Strong tasting veggies (overpowering flavors)
Leek greens Cabbage
Scallion greens Turnips
Parsley stems Parnsips (too strong)
Thyme stems Squash
Garlic Potatoes (will make stock cloudy)
Ginger root (for Asian soups)
Vegetable stock recipe
Makes 2 quarts
6 cups of sliced onions, leek greens and/or scallion greens
4 medium carrots, scrubbed put not peeled and thickly sliced, to make about 1 1/2 cups
3 to 4 celery stalks including leaves, sliced, to make about 2 cups
4 cups (12 ounces) sliced mushrooms, optional
3 tomatoes, diced, optional
1 small head of garlic, separated
1 large handful fresh parsley, or an equal amount of parsley stems
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 cups water (or 10 cups water plus 2 cups white wine)
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil if making rich stock
For light vegetable stock:
1. Place onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt in a large pot. (A small amount of salt enhances the flavor of the stock, without compromising it if you plan to reduce it. If you add too much salt at the beginning and want to reduce the stock later, it may be too salty.) Add the water, and wine, if using.
2. Bring stock to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat so that the stock simmers. Cook, uncovered, for at least 1 hour. If you have more time, cook longer, up to 1 1/2 hours is sufficient.
3. Strain and store in containers in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Season with salt when ready to use.
For rich vegetable stock:
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spread the onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Roast for 30 minutes, or until browned.
3. Tip vegetables into a large pot. Pour a little hot water onto the sheet pans, and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom with a flat-ended wooden spoon or spatula. Pour the water into the pot.
4. Add the parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt, water, and wine, if using, to the pot. Bring stock to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat so that the stock simmers. Cook, uncovered, for at least 1 hour. If you have more time, cook longer, up to 1 1/2 hours is sufficient.
5. Strain and store in containers in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Season with salt when ready to use.
When straining the stock, place the ‘receptacle’ pot in the sink and set a strainer over it. Then pour the stock into the pot. This enables you to pour at below waist level, instead of trying to heft a large pot of liquid at countertop level.