Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I've been a bad blogger

No new posts, really, in about two weeks. But I've been a good home cook.

This weekend my landlord finally replaced my ancient and ailing fridge, and so I did some freezer cleanout in preparation. I made both chicken and beef stocks.

For the chicken stock, I used the bits of parsley, onion, and carrot I had kept in a bag in the freezer for that purpose, plus of course chicken backs (both from cutting up whole chickens for parts, which I am kicking myself for not having started to do sooner, and from Whole Foods, which occasionally sells packages of backs for stock very cheaply) and a couple of carcasses from roasts. Many, many hours of cooking later (I used a crockpot overnight), I was rewarded for my hoarding of bits with really beautiful, deep yellow, rich stock. Oh, I also followed Sally Fallon's advice, and included a spoonful of white vinegar in the pot. You can't taste it, but she claims the acidity helps to leach the calcium from the bone, making the stock more nutritious. Can't hurt. I believe deeply, by the way, that one of the weaknesses of the American diet is its lack of bone-based stocks, which are full of minerals. There's a reason recovering invalids used to be given mugs of hot beef bouillion or bowls real chicken soup. The broth-based canned versions most American eat don't stack up nutritionally or, of course, culinarily.

For the beef stock, I roasted the bones in the oven first until browned, then simmered them in water for hours. I cooled the stock, and left it overnight in the fridge. In the morning, I removed the fat from the top and stored it in the freezer, returned the gelatinous stock to the stove, and added a meaty shank for beef flavor. I cooked it a few hours more. The stock tasted meaty and gelled up completely. But the color was lacking, just a pale, greyish-brown. If anyone knows how to get my stock prettier, please post a comment.

I also cooked a lot of vegetables this weekend. I tried callaloo for the first time, having picked some up at the Brookline Farmers' Market. This green takes a while to prep, because the stalks are large and branchy. But the flavor is worth it, very much like spinach, but a bit deeper and more resonant, not at all bitter. I cooked it with garlic and red pepper, then tossed it with some pasta and ricotta salata. Excellent. I also made green beans and roasted potatoes with a basil-walnut pesto, which I liked quite a bit. I highly recommend the use of walnuts in the pesto for use with green beans; there's just something about the bean and walnut combination. Georgian cuisine uses that pairing frequently, and the results are fantastic.

I also made stuffed summer squash and green peppers for about the tenth time this summer. I seem to be caught in a rut. But the stuffing this time was the best so far: ground beef; homemade, rough, dried bread crumbs (bigger than crumbs, but smaller than croutons), shredded yellow summer squash; fresh corn; chopped parsley; garlic; and a touch of onion, plus dried oregano, paprika, white and black peppers, and salt. The corn added a lot to the texture and the flavor, while the shredded squash kept the mix light and moist. I'm sticking with this version.

Finally, I made terrific ice cream, but I'll post about that tomorrow, when I have my camera with me and can upload the pictures. I intend to call that post: In Which the Seasonal Cook Forsakes Her Principles for a Bowl of Ice Cream Flavored with Oranges from South Africa..... (oh, the shame)


haroldmartinez6712 said...
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Anonymous said...

Smear the bones with tomato paste before roasting them for a deeper color. Did you roast carrots onions and celery too?

Pyewacket said...

I didn't roast the vegetables, because I had a problem once with a stock that came out quite sweet as a result of too many caramelized onions. But thanks for the suggestion about the tomato paste; I'll try that next time and add just a couple onions as well.