I Feel Bad About My Stock

Onion skins. Celery ends. Beef fat trimmings. Mushroom stems. Carrot tops. Garlic sprouts. Chicken bones. No, it's not the contents of a Rachel-Ray-type "garbage bowl" that I'm going to throw away. It's what I save for making stock!

There is a bay leaf just right of center! A "real" ingredient!

Well apparently, this is all wrong. So says Chef Pardus. Crap.

You see, I thought I was being so clever and frugal. I always saved these bits and scraps from making meals--kept them in a bag in the freezer. Every now and then I'd heave them, unthawed, into the crockpot with water to cover. After 8 hours or so on "low," I'd have something I called stock. (It tasted like onion water.) I'd salt it up and use it in soups or stews.

However, after reading The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman, I discovered that Chef Michael Pardus (Culinary Institute of America) does NOT consider stuff like vegetable trimmings to be legitimate stock ingredients. Ruhlman describes the basics class where CIA students are learning to make stock. When asked if the carrots for stock should be peeled, Pardus said something like, "If people want carrot peelings so much, put them in a salad." Takeaway: Don't make stock from garbage. Use peeled carrots, not carrot peels. (The worst part of this story is that once, before I'd ever read Making of a Chef, I posted a comment on ruhlman.com giving my little freezer bag routine as a handy kitchen tip. Idiot! Now Michael Ruhlman knows that I make stock out of garbage!)

After crockpotting, strain. Use the liquid for soups or stews.

I really should know better, since I went to coooking school myself once. Stock should be made with mirepoix, a sachet of parsley and peppercorns, bones. I know that. But honestly, when I have carrots or celery or onions (aka mirepoix), I need to cook and eat them, not boil them for stock. Is it so wrong to save my garbage and make... onion water? Aren't I rather clever?


Postscript: The minestrone I made was a big hit with the family. You'd never know it was made from onion water.

1 comment:

"Prof. Kitty" said...

My mother sent me this email and gave me permission to post it as a comment:

I always thought making stock from the garbagy bits a good idea ... all those vitamins. But you should see Ina (aka Barefoot) when she makes chicken stock. Two lovely full breasted whole hens, some onions, lots of celery, carrots, all trimmed, etc. plus a variety of fresh herbs. Why, it must come close to $50-$60 by the time she's finished. What your advantage is, is that the cost is zilch since you aren't buying special things to put in it. Go for it.