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Make your own stock

1 Jun

Seriously, why are you buying vegetable or chicken stock? There are some food items I won’t make myself because, frankly, there are people who are really really good at making them. Take bread as an example. I tried my hand at making bread in my quest to be a renaissance woman. Guess what, my bread wasn’t nearly as good as my local bakery’s. It was edible and during a zombie attack, I would definitely take that bread in my rucksack and snack on it in between, you know, surviving. But since it’s not the end of the world, why not have the kind of bread that you just want to tear into and eat with your eyes closed because it’s that good. Stock, on the other hand, is not better out of a can. I make damn good stock and I make it quickly and I make it without a fancy technique.

My first exposure to stock was probably Thanksgiving, when every year my mom would take the inside bits of the turkey and throw them in some lightly salted water to cook while the bird got ready. She would skim the fat then use the liquid in the stuffing. Her turkey stuffing, by the way, is amazing and I eat it with my eyes closed. I always have a moment with those first few bites of stuffing. Now I’m hungry. Okay, sorry for the digression, but I realized recently that she was basically making her own turkey stock for the day. When I started buying chicken directly from local farmers I started making my own chicken stock. It’s been about five years and I haven’t gone back to store-bought stocks.

I mostly used bones from roast chicken at first. Now, I make stock with whatever I have. A month ago my husband had a terrible stomach bug and I figured the best way to get his appetite and energy back was with some chicken stock. It was mid-week and I had no bone-in cuts of chicken on hand. Then I looked in the fridge again: a half-dozen chicken necks were hiding behind the last bars of liquid gold (breastmilk could back the currency of any country, in my opinion).

Let me tell you that chicken necks are my new favorite stock option. They have very little fat so your stock doesn’t require 20 minutes of skimming fat off the top, yet they do have some meat on them for excellent flavor. I make stocks with whatever I have on hand. That day I had onion, garlic, and bay leaves. I served Husbo the stock with nothing else.–it was all he had the energy to eat. It healed him. Alright, I exaggerate, but broth always does a body good. I didn’t even brown anything for this stock, I just put three necks into about 3 quarts of water, along with salt, whole peppercorns, smashed garlic, a bay leaf, and half an onion. I brought everything up to a boil, then covered the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer for 90 minutes. And I did pull the meat off the necks. Again, it wasn’t much meat, but it was enough for about four baby servings of chicken and lentils.

Last week I made a vegetable stock with carrots (the last couple sad ones of the bunch), three cremini mushrooms, a bay leaf, and the center of a celery bunch (lots of leaves). This time I did brown everything first in a spoonful olive oil before adding the water. The beauty of homemade stocks is that you control everything. And they’re cheap to make, so why pay for the packaging at the store?? And don’t thing it’s a strictly-housewife activity. I make stocks on weekends when I have a couple of hours at home. After they cool, I put them in freezer bags or ice cube trays if I don’t plan on using them that very week. Try it. You can’t mess up on this one. Bread, on the other hand, is very easy to mess up.

If you want professional/fancy stuff, Bon Appetit had a great chicken stock 101 recipe:

Martha offers a great basic vegetable stock recipe here:

Meatless Monday… on Tuesday: Eggplant rollatini

17 Apr

It was actually on Sunday. Who cares what day it is, I do try to have meat-free meals at least one day each week. For some reason I worry that the vegetarian meals won’t be filling so I have a baseless anxiety about making these dishes. My usual crutch is pasta so Meatless Mondays are an exceptional challenge when I bar pasta from the ingredient list.

This weekend I was inspired by Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Mad Hungry. I’ll profess my love for Lucinda another day, but she did an episode of her show featuring eggplant rollatini. Her version included prosciutto so I just removed that and forged ahead with dinner for two:

1 large eggplant, cut vertically into 1/4 inch slices

1 cup ricotta

1/4 cup parmesan

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

1 egg

chopped herbs (basil and flat-leaf parsley)

tomato sauce (marinara or whatever you have)

extra cheese to sprinkle on top

Turn on your oven to 375 and get a baking dish ready for assembly. Mix the cheeses, chopped herbs, and one egg in a bowl. Add salt/pepper to taste. The parm is salty, but you still need to add more flavor. Cook the eggplant slices until fork tender in a skillet with hot olive oil. Add a ladle full of tomato sauce into the baking dish. You simply take the cooked eggplant slices and spread a spoonful of the three-cheese mixture (I really like ricotta so I go heavy on on that cheese, but you can balance the mix of cheeses and herbs as you like) on one side. Roll up the eggplant and place in the baking dish. Line up your bundles then cover them with more tomato sauce. Shred parmesan on top of your rollatini then pop in the oven. Mad Hungry adds more mozzarella on top of the rollatini but I just thought it was too much. Listen to your taste buds on that one. The dish is done once the top is browned a bit and you see the cheese/sauce bubbling.

Next time, I’m taking these ingredients and layering the eggplant like lasagna noodles instead of making rollatini. Oh, and I’ll probably add spinach, too. The ricotta/mozzarella/parmesan mix is the same as the filling for lasagna so why not take the same ingredients and pivot? Stay tuned.


What’s for dinner? Meatballs edition

2 Apr

I’m not one of those people who goes to the market with a shopping list for the meals of the week. I prefer to go to the market and see what’s good. Lately, we’ve been splitting duties: Husbo goes to the market while Babe naps at home with me. At least I’m a bit more adventurous at the market and will sometimes come home with something new to figure out how to cook. Husbo sticks with what he knows. That’s fine because it means we don’t risk having a strikeout meal. Either way, I tend to make things up as I go along based on whatever is in the house.


Sooo, one of the reliable things we get at the market is ground meat. We usually have some type of sausage (chorizo, hot italian, etc.) in the freezer in addition to plain old ground meat. Last week I peeked in the freezer to divine a meal and decided to take out 1 lb ground pork and a 1 lb pork chorizo. We had a good hunk of a country loaf in the breadbox. So I thought, let’s make meatballs and see how it turns out. I usually go for beef or bison, but I was working with what we had.


I like using sausage in meatballs because it adds so much flavor without a lot of effort. Since the chorizo added spice and smokiness, all I added to the 2 lbs of meat was an egg and breadcrumbs. Sidebar: make your own bread crumbs–throw your crusty day-old bread in food processor. I then browned the meatballs (golf ball in size) in a bit of olive oil. After all the meatballs were browned, I threw in a box of chopped tomatoes to the pan and picked up all the brown bits. I added salt, a bay leaf, pepper, and a bit of water. Once that was bubbling, I added the meatballs back in and put the lid on. You can leave it all to simmer as long as you want, or until everyone is hungry.
The great thing about meatballs is you can pretty much use anything. I’ve added chopped carrot, onion, and zucchini to meatballs for some heft. And they can be served in a mazillion ways so pretty much everyone is happy. Except for the vegetarians. But I don’t worry about them because they aren’t ever at my house for dinner.