Category Archives: Savory

How to Become a Stock-er

Attention, readers:  You are in for a treat this post as a special guest blogger shares his stock tips…

Blogs, huh? So THIS is the new revolution?!  This is no different from those Angelfire pages we all had during the Clinton years. What a gyp. Still, I’m trying to get better at coping with disappointment, so don’t mind me if I to try to write this post with imaginary knobs and wheels like Tom Cruise in Minority Report (Did you know that Apple took many of the ideas for the iPhone’s multi-touch interface from Minority Report? Perhaps we’re not so far off after all…)

What? Oh, right. Pertinence. Well then, if I’m substituting today, then I’ll be throwing out the teacher’s normal curriculum of, God, I dunno…pink unicorn Anthropologie macaroon pies. Let’s get to basics. Like way back fundamentals basics.

Professional chefs, French folks, and lucky memoirists all refer to stock as the fond de cuisine (which can be roughly translated on the internet).  All soups, and stews, many sauces, gravies, risottos, potato gratins, paellas, et al use stock as the base. There are as many kinds of stocks as there are animals whose fat can be boiled out of their bones and flavorized. (Ok, ok, you don’t need animal fats exclusively. But I have a hard time differentiating vegetable stock from the green water that’s left over from steaming asparagus.  All those wanting to see a veggie-broth post can grab themselves a Not Dog, sit down and chill.)

If you’re like me—and…cherish the thought—when you see chicken stock in a recipe your mind goes to those Swanson’s cans.  But comparing a store bought stock to the real Mccoy is like Wonderbread to freshly baked artisan loaf or Mission to Border Grill’s tortillas, or Octomom to Angelina Jolie. No matter how hard it tries, we’re just not in the same league. Homemade stock usually has a higher fat content and fresher herbs and spices, giving it a deeper, richer flavor.

Above all else, though, what I love about homemade stock is that it’s made from garbage. Unless you’re Ina Garten who curiously uses dozens of freshly slaughtered French game hens in her recipe, this is a dish that should use only scrap ingredients. Never throw away any chicken bones from another dish, or the meat for that matter, or especially the leftover carcass from one of those supermarket rotisseries.  Keep them in a bag in the freezer and when you’ve got enough for a batch (or your roommates become alarmed by your enthusiastic carcass hoarding) it’s time.

Same goes for the herb/veggie section. Certain things like bay leaves, celery, and thyme are essential in my opinion, but the rest are a grab bag.  This recipe is a great use for garlic that has begun regenerating itself on your counter; also wilted celery, graying rosemary, and forgotten carrots.

On the subject of carrots, this is a bit touchy for me. Carrots, or “devil fingers” as I like to call them, are a personal bane of mine. Their innate sweetness (and evilness) can give a stock a miserable aftertaste. I prefer the bare minimum approach— usually one per stock. I know, I know, that’s ridiculous, but I can’t help it, I’m…racist.

However, I did discover on a recent farmer’s market trip the existence of a mysterious white carrot. According to the bearded root vegetable expert on-hand, carrots are originally white in their native homeland of Afghanistan.  It was later when they were brought to The Netherlands that they were made orange so as to “match their queen.” I have no idea how much of the story is true.  Either way, these carrots (Pictured here. They are not parsnips) are less sweet but still have that earthy flavor. So, there you go, I guess I’m not racist, I just think white carrots are superior.

Final, last note: Err on the side of less water in making the stock.  Logic goes, less water means less diluted means more concentration of favors.  An especially good idea if you’re freezing the stock into cubes to use later as a flavor enhancer.


Chicken Stock Adapted from Alton Brown, Good Eats

4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and back
1 large onion, quartered
1 carrot, peeled (or three white carrots!)
4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
1-2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaves
8 to 10 peppercorn
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 gallons cold water

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Set opened steamer basket directly on ingredients in pot and pour over 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.

So that’s it, blog out or whatever you people are supposed to say at this point.  This was surprisingly painless, even dare I think it, fun?  Your real teacher will be back next time, of course.  But maybe, some other time in the future, if there aren’t too many complaints I might make another rainy day appearance. Oh, and all photo credits go to your regularly scheduled blogger with a contribution by local pirate Travis. They’re the talent here.

I Curse Over Spoiled Milk.

If you make the Indian food from this post, great.  But the take-home lesson here is to explore the restaurant supply stores and ethnic food shops in your area.  For me, anyway, it’s like going to a toy store and then on a scavenger hunt.  What inspired this post was a visit to Surfas, a restaurant supply store near me in Culver City which offers free cooking demonstrations.  That weekend, Chef Neelam Batra prepared and gave us recipes for some delicious vegetarian dishes, which sent me on a quest to find the spices she used.  In the following recipes, there are only two spice mixes that you might not find in a regular grocery store:  chaat masala and chickpea (or chana) masala.  The ones I found were packaged in small boxes.  I’m going back for all my spices; they’re so much cheaper!


This chickpea salad would make great potluck food if asked to bring a hearty salad.  It was one of those recipes that seems overwhelming if you don’t do prep work. (I actually love chopping and combining things into my mini, glass Target bowls. Then I like to leave the room, come back, and pretend Martha’s kitchen slaves have prepped everything for me!) So I’ll copy out the ingredients you’ll need and provide you with the steps I took to follow the original recipe:

SPICY CHICKPEA SALAD
from Chef Neelam Batra as demonstrated at Surfas, Culver City

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large tomato
1 small seedless cucumber
4 scallions, white parts only
1 C cilantro
1 whole serrano pepper
1 t garlic
1 T fresh ginger
3 15 oz cans chickpeas
2 1/2 t chaat masala
2 T ground coriander
1 T chickpea masala
3 T peanut oil
1/2 C water

Prep
1. Finely chop: tomato, cucumber, scallions, cilantro, serrano pepper
2. Use a microplane zester to grate: 1 t garlic and 1 T ginger
3. Rinse and drain chickpeas in a colander

Organize into separate bowls
1. tomato, cucumber, scallions, 1/4 C of cilantro, 1 t chaat masala
2. garlic, ginger, serrano pepper
3. coriander, chickpea masala, 1 1/2 t chaat masala

Cook
1. Heat 3 T peanut oil in large skillet on medium-high. Add #2 bowl, stir for 1 minute.  Add #3.
2. Add chickpeas and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are tender and the juices evaporate, 5 minutes. Mix in remaining 3/4 C cilantro.
3. Transfer to serving platter. Mix in tomato bowl contents. Serve at room temp or cold.

Next up, homemade paneer cheese.  This was remarkable to watch.  I stood over the stove, patiently stirring for a long time before anything happened.  I wasn’t ready for the milk to boil suddenly, in a billowing, unstoppable dome, threatening to rise up over the pot and spill all over my oven range…and me!

“We’re fucked!  We’re fucked!” I yelled, stabbing ineffectively at the menacing foam.

He walked over, calmly lifted the pot, said, “Now turn off the heat.”

Oh.  Right.

After that non-disaster, I regained the calm to fully enjoy the next part. Before my eyes, the milk separated into curds and whey.

I’d recommend making this recipe just for the wonderment of seeing this process. But, hey, I am science lab deprived, so maybe it won’t impress you as much.


HOMEMADE PANEER
from Chef Neelam Batra as demonstrated at Surfas, Culver City

1/2 gallon milk (I used 2 %)
2 C plain yogurt (I bought mine at the Indian grocery store and looove it; very thick and tangy)
Cheesecloth (Surprisingly, this was readily available at my local grocery store)

-Place the milk in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring gently, over high heat. Just before the milk boils and the bubbles spill over, mix in the yogurt and continue to stir lightly until the milk curdles and separates into curds and whey, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

-Drape the cheesecloth over a large pan and pour the curdled milk over it, draining the whey through the cloth and catching the curds in the cloth. Set pan with whey aside.

-With the curds inside it, pick up the cloth and tie it to the kitchen faucet to drain 3 to 5 minutes.

-Remove from the faucet and gently twist the cloth around the curds, then place the cloth between two large plates and balance the pan with whey on top. (Work close to the sink, or you’ll have a mess to clean up.)

-Remove the pan from the curds (which by now should have compressed into a chunk), cut into cubes.

-To cook paneer to eat by itself or in another recipe, fry in vegetable oil, stirring carefully to keep paneer pieces from breaking.  I made palak paneer from one of my favorite youtube video gems I stumbled upon once in search for naan.  Turns out, Manjula is quite commercial now.  Please check out some of her informative and charming videos.

Namaste.

I Fall For It.

It’s fall!  And Los Angeles is doing an impressive job playing at it; yesterday I wore close toed shoes.  Like oh my god.  Hey, good enough excuse for me to start in on the spices and root vegetables and squashes.  With soup in mind, I opened up Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style (Side note: Did you know it’s “Eye-nuh” not “Eee-nuh”?  Please explain.) and found “Roasted Vegetable Soup,” which boils down to (see what I did there?) oven roasting chunks of carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and parsnips in olive oil until tender, pureeing with chicken stock, and heating.

Oh yeah, I instantly caught a cold when the “weather” changed.  I may have also compromised the immune system by staying up until 3 beating a certain computer game.  (It WILL become your world.)  So the soup definitely helped.

with a bit of fried sage

Ina’s recipe includes brioche croutons, but no recipe for brioche.  She suggests instead to use “that leftover bread in the freezer.”  This is, in fact, the second time she references her frozen supply; the French toast incorporates “leftover challah from the freezer.”  What would Ina think if she opened my egg bread-less freezer?  If you find yourself equally unprepared, I suggest Cooks Illustrated online’s “Quick Brioche.”  Let me know if you need the recipe, and I will first scold you for not being a member and then whore out my password.

I’m usually not a big fan of this season, but this year I’m determined to root for it and spice it up (had to) with autumnal cookery.  And then go outside and tan by the pool.

I Cook Up Some Balls.

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This post will not be about bread.  The batards above are actually weapons.  Many things could have gone wrong:  While more practical to let dough rise in the refrigerator overnight, that could produce a denser loaf.  Maybe using a post-shower bathroom just doesn’t cut it as a “proofing chamber.”  Not a lost cause, but not the light, open crumb I wanted.  And I still have starter tucked in the refrigerator, ready for the next adventure.  (If anyone has begun a starter and needs follow-up recipe suggestions, please let me know.)

Too heavy to eat alone, the bread served perfectly for sauce-mopping.  And what to put in the sauce?  Well, I finally  had a good excuse to jump on the latest food trend: meatballs (they’re so hot right now).

Way before meatballs were cool, my friend Sydney and I made a batch as part of an elaborate Italian feast (this was part of our Food Outside of Our Ethnic Demographic Series, after the success of Chinese and Thai).  We found this recipe somewhere online, and I can’t credit the source.  All I remember is the one in my recipe binder is cut down from its original by 1/4 (!) which featured five pounds of meat.

ITALIAN MEATBALLS
adapted from the recipe card with the puppy on it

1/4 C shallots
1 clove garlic
3 T parsley
1/2 C bread crumbs (preferably Italian style bread crumbs)
1 egg
1/4 C cold water
1 T olive oil
1/2 T salt
dash of pepper
pinch of cumin and cinnamon
a few grates of asiago
3/4 lb lean ground beef
1/4 lb ground pork
flour
olive oil

Preheat oven to 325. Puree all but beef and pork in food processor. In a large bowl, mix meat and blended ingredients with your hands. Shape into 15-18 balls. Roll in flour. In a large pan, heat olive oil on medium. Working in batches, brown meatballs, reserving the drippings and adding fresh oil if necessary. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 25-30 min.

CLASSIC TOMATO SAUCE
adapted from Sauce, published by Williams-Sonoma

Preserved drippings from browning the meatballs
1 clove garlic, crushed
approx. 2 C canned tomatoes (try 14.5 oz Muir Glen Diced Tomatoes)
2 T vermouth
salt
pepper
3 T fresh basil, plus more for garnish
I also added fresh oregano

Heat the oil (drippings) in a large frying pan.  Saute the garlic until golden-brown.  Add tomatoes and their juice, crushing with the back of a wooden spoon.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Add vermouth, 1/2 t salt, and pinch of pepper.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Off heat, add basil and oregano.  I like to have some texture in a sauce, so I saved out half, pureed the other, then mixed it back together to create a nicely-balanced sauce.

Dip in!

Special thanks to Travis (who ate 6 balls) for technology assistance.

I Put Baby in a Corner.

Channing plug

Hi.  I haven’t seen you in so long, how are you?  Yes, Israel was fun.  Remember when I never wanted to talk about pad thai again?  Pita, hummus, falafel.  Chickpeas, we’re calling it quits.  I’ve got to stop traveling or I’ll starve once I get back home.  But I should say that I had some lovely food in the respites between PHF (See 5. Non-PHF Fare).

 After traveling, it’s so delightful to get back to your own bed.  So I did a running slam into it facedown and stayed there for a bit before I realized—I’d forgotten about the baby!  I ran to the fridge, and, lifting the bowl tenderly, peered under the Saran wrap.  She is alive.  A little grayed but alive.  And hungry.

 Let me backtrack.  You may recall the sad tale of my lost child, the sourdough starter baby Sharpie (Rot in Peace).  After losing him, I vowed that in the next go-round I would be a better mother: change her, feed her, always be there to wipe away her fruit flies.  I began the process and once more had a bowl of water and rye flour fermenting away in the counter corner.

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 As the end of her eleven-day gestation approached, I realized I would be out of the kitchen for her first days as a completed starter.  I couldn’t bear to put another child down the garbage disposal, so I did what any conscientious mother would do in my situation:  I took my newborn to Vegas.

Feeding at a gas station on the way

Sin City must have some delightful wild yeast floating around, and as it wafted up to the 58th floor of the Wynn on the flutterings of whore trading cards, the baby grew.

Enjoying the viewAccording to The Cheese Board Collective Works (almost as awesome as the store itself), “with monthly feedings, sourdough starter will last indefinitely in the refrigerator.”  So I left for Israel with the bowl in the fridge; somehow I think Customs frowns upon bringing starter on an international flight. 

 Now back, I have some sourdough projects in the works.  So stay tuned, or RSS’d, or whatever gets you here.  In the meantime, here’s something to get you started:

 HOW TO MAKE A BABY

Adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works by the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley

You will need:  Water, rye flour, lots of bread flour (I use King Arthur), and eleven days

Day 1:  In a medium non-metallic bowl, stir ½ C lukewarm water with ¾ C rye flour until smooth.  Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top (do not seal, just lay over top) and leave out at room temperature for 48 hours.  It will get bubbly.

Day 2:  Look at bubbles.

Day 3:  Feed starter by stirring in 2/3 C bread flour until smooth.  Lay plastic wrap over bowl and let stand another 48 hours.

Day 4:  Tell someone to smell the starter and watch their disgusted reaction.  The orig was named “Sharpie” for a reason.

Day 5:  Pay attention because you’re going to have to do this over and over again:  Remove ¼ C of the starter and throw out the rest.  Rinse out the bowl and put the ¼ C back into the bowl.  Stir in ½ C lukewarm water.  Add 2/3 C bread flour and mix until smooth.  Cover and let stand 48 hours.

Day 7:  Repeat Day 5 instructions.

Day 9:  Day 5.  Let stand 24 hours this time.

Day 10:  Day 5.  24 hours.

Day 11:  A star is born.  You can now do another Day 5 and then immediately refrigerate, repeating Day 5 at least monthly.  To bake with it, add to a recipe you have calling for sourdough starter or wait for my next post.