Archive for January, 2016

Making a good vegetable stock has a primal appeal: it’s the vegetarian version of using all parts of the animal. And, while building up flavor from a semi-predictable roster of veggies that need only simmer in water until delicious sounds like it would require less ingenuity than, say, making pigs’ feet taste tasty, I’ve found it to be a challenge.

After reading countless recipes, and reviews thereof, and failing to make broth that rivals its store-bought counterpart, today’s result was encouraging (there have been plenty of mistakes to learn from).

Here’s my take on how to approach broth, given that the whole point is that a hard-and-fast recipe doesn’t square with either the frequent impetus behind broth – wanting to use up leftovers – or the happy reality that there’s many ways to get it right.

Don’t skip the herbs – even if you don’t have fresh ones. Fresh herbs are great – and it’s great to find another use for them after preparing the meal for which they were originally intended – but do head to the spice cabinet if sprigs of thyme and rosemary aren’t at hand. Herbs are an important part of creating a layered and satisfying flavor profile. I was happy with the result of using dried Italian seasoning – oregano, basil, thyme, and marjoram.

Don’t fear the peppercorn.
While I’m sure it can be overdone, I saw a few recipes calling for just 2-4 peppercorns. I used eight peppercorns with a generous 3 quarts of water and it didn’t overwhelm.

Be conservative with the water.
Yes, more stock is better. Yes, that onion is fucking huge and seems like it could successfully perfume the Caspian Sea. And, perhaps the most compelling among reasons to keep adding water, you can keep reducing the stock until it strengthens. However: mess with the flavorings-to-water balance too much and you’ll be hard-pressed to arrive at a tasty stock.

There are fixes for a weak stock. Beyond adding salt and continuing to simmer, here are flavor enhancers you might consider:
1. Miso. This is my favorite by far, bringing savory depth without asserting its own identity too strongly the way soy sauce can.
2. More alliums. Leeks, scallions, garlic, whatever you’ve got – if the broth is anemic, this is a semi-speedy and effective way to get it tasting like real food.
3. Add a splash of wine. Even a part-wine aperitif like Lilllet Blanc works well.

Chop well. The veggies will be discarded so there’s no need to make them bite sized. However, the more surface area you can expose, the more flavor can be leeched from them. So, while it’s kind of thrilling to halve an onion and call it a day, it may be worth doing a bit more breaking down before adding the vegetables to the pot.

The big question I have is if roasting veggies before putting them in water noticeably deepens their flavor.

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