The Holidays are over and have been complete just long enough to reveal a few nightmare ingredients which remain in the fridge: rubbery carrots, soft celery, a few petrified brussels sprouts, a limp endive and browning radicchio. It’s not exactly a buffet for Kings but it had to be used.
What can be done with all of this? Many years ago I would have thought nothing could be salvaged; I’ve since learned that this is all the makings of a wonderful vegetable stock (even the endive and especially the radicchio which darkened it up considerably):
I want to emphasize how poor these vegetables were; they were beyond neglected. They hadn’t turned to compost in the fridge..yet. But they were well beyond what I thought was salvageable.
Vegetable stock is as much an idea as it is a recipe so don’t be worried about following too closely. Here’s my overall process:
- Heat a neutral cooking oil like grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Start it hot and cool it off when needed. I used olive oil for years and it just doesn’t get hot enough without smoking.
- Dump your vegetables into the pot and brown them. Don’t worry about over browning but the more they fry, the better they will be.
- Pour enough cold water to JUST cover your vegetables.
- Add seasoning (but no salt per below) and/ or spices. You can also do this while frying.
- Bring water to a simmer and reduce by half (see below for tips). This should take about 90 minutes.
- Strain and cool as fast as possible.
- Store in fridge, covered.
More important than the process are these tips:
- A ‘simmer’ means barely visible bubbles. Water doesn’t get hotter than boiling.
- Don’t leave longer than 2 hours or so. Vegetables will get bitter.
- Don’t add salt as the reduction may lead to an over-salted broth.
- Pepper should be added in grounds (your straining it and it will make it easier).
- Vegetables should be chopped to approximately the same size as each other.
- The skin of onion and garlic are fine additions (onion will add colour and both will add flavour).
- Bay leaf and thyme are standard spices; I also like chiles, peppercorns, savoury, lemon thyme, lemon grass and more.
- Avoid bell peppers as they will make things bitter.
- Avoid starch vegetables which will cloud your broth.
- Radicchio will darken a vegetable stock nicely.
- I cool my stock by pouring it out of the hot pan ind into a chilled bowl which I carefully place in a sink filled with chilled water and stir it to release the heat.
- Straining through cheesecloth is fine; I use several different strainers for a similar effect.
- For the best straining, pour the stock into the colander with a ladle (as opposed to pouring from the pot which will increase the velocity and pressure and force smaller pieces through the mesh).
- You can roast the vegetables in advance if you’d like as well.
- Note that carrots can add a LOT of sweetness and too much carrots can sweeten your stock.
- I use a mirepoix (50% onion, 25% carrot and 25% celery) st start my vegetable base. Our fermented mirepoix could be interesting here as well.
- You can freeze stems of herbs, vegetable peels and ends to make stock as well
What else would you add or change on my list?