Two significant changes to my dinner time –- the difference in local foodstuffs here compared with Los Angeles and my much-later arrival home each night –- have given me clarity about some new habits I need to embrace, stat.
First of all, one needs a well-stocked larder. Every manner of bean, noodle, spice, paste, sauce and other staple must be on hand at all times, so there can be improvisation on the fly. Will I let a vote on the Dream Act stand in the way of a well-cooked meal? No I won’t! Rice noodles and fish sauce are at the ready, pad thai here I come!
What’s more, this is why our grannies turned to canning and freezing –- they didn’t have Mexican tomatoes to turn to, and we all know that really, neither should we. (This is not a food lecture. If you want asparagus in December, I can’t judge you. Scratch your culinary itch, and do the canning redux thing too –- it’s a free country!)
So anyway, to that end, one also needs a freezer full of goodies, from meatballs to stews to stocks stored in 1-cup portions, which can turn “Pasta again?!” into a rich and satisfying affair. While I am usually pretty good at keeping chicken stock on hand, I tend to come up short on a beef version. This bothered me greatly –- a deck of cards with no king.
And so it was that I turned to Meat Stock. That might have been all she wrote, friends, but it wasn’t quite. I want you to be able to make this during the week, and unless you have several hours to give up during the work day (or you’re doing the old “Actually, (supervisor, partner, random office crazy person) I’m in a meeting, where else would I be? No, that is not a leaf blower -- I’m insulted you’d suggest that!”) you are going to need a stock that works for you.
Thus, I have tweaked, and used the crock pot to make it come together.
First, I went to the market and got the marrow bones that gluttonforlife calls for. A guy behind me in line at the butcher stand started giving me some tips, all of which I used to tweak this recipe for the weeknight cook.
I roasted them at a lower temperature for an hour then rubbed them with tomato paste, and roasted them another 90 minutes longer. From here, one could easily go on and continue the recipe, if you are the sort of normal person who sleeps with the crock pot on. I am not, so I put those nicely roasted bones in the fridge until the next morning. (Unlike the author, I did not involve cubed meat. You can of course and the result will no doubt be a richer stock, as she indicates.)
In the morning, I tossed the bones, as well as the onion, carrots, celery stalks, garlic cloves, bay leaves and a bunch of thyme and Italian parsley into my slow cooker. I skipped the leeks, as I had none on hand, and the black peppercorns. I covered it all with water, turned it high for 30 minutes while I got ready for work, then to low, where I left it as I toiled away all day, pretending to be greatly interested in my work tasks as I dreamed of wafts of beef steam at home.
When I got home, once I had cooled and strained my concoction, I had five cups of really good, really rich and aromatic stock. In a few weeks, over time, that will lead to other moments of deliciousness, which I will share with you all. I am posting both recipes here, because I think they suit different needs and because mine would be nowhere without glutton’s. Enjoy either one.
Jenny's Modified Meat Stock
Makes 6 cups
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse the bones with cold water and pat dry. Place the bones in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Roast for about an hour.
2. Remove bones from oven, rub with tomato paste, then roast another hour. (At this point I put the bones in the fridge and went to bed. You can do this or proceed to step 3.)
3. Place the bones, vegetables and herbs in your crock pot, with just enough water to cover them totally. Turn pot to high for 30 to 60 minutes, then turn to low and leave it alone for the rest of the day (7 hrs).
4. Strain broth through fine strainer, and let cool completely before placing it in the refrigerater overnight.
5. The next day, remove and discard fat. Transfer to Ziplock freezer bags (I do one cup bags) and freeze until needed.
Makes 6 cups
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the bones with cold water and pat dry. Place the vegetables in a single layer in a large roasting pan and add the bones on top. Roast, turning the bones a few times, until well browned; about 1 hour.
2. Transfer the bones and vegetables to a large soup pot, discarding fat from the roasting pan. Deglaze the pan with a couple of cups of water over high heat, scraping up all the brown bits. Add this to the bones, along with the cubed meat, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and parsley. Pour in cold water to cover the bones and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Do not stir. Add peppercorns, and continue to simmer, uncovered, for about 4 hours, skimming from time to time.
3. Strain stock and discard solids. Cool and then refrigerate overnight. The following day, remove and discard fat that has risen to the top, and discard any debris that has sunk to the bottom. Salt before using or, if planning to reduce, wait to add salt until later. Can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or divided into smaller quantities and frozen for future use, up to 6 months.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now