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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

12.04.2000

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Stock tricks 
how to make a chicken or 
veggie stock
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I've got nothing against canned goods. I like canned beans and canned tomatoes, canned olives and canned cream of corn. They make life easy, and, truth be told, donít sacrifice all that much in the way of flavor. But though Iíll use canned stock, if thereís absolutely no other alternative, thereís no denying it: the store-bought stuffís barely even the same substance as a good, homemade stock. Good stock is the secret to fabulous sauces, sensational soups, sublime risottos. It can add an instant shot of rich, low-fat flavor to an otherwise ho-hum stir-fry. It will make your food taste better. Which is why, if youíre at all serious about cooking good food, you should stop reaching for the cans Ė or even worse, those bouillon cubes Ė and make stock from scratch.

Now before you worry that Iím getting all Martha Stewart on you or anything, let me assure you: stockís a no-brainer to make. It doesnít require fancy ingredients or elaborate techniques and, at its most basic, involves little more than throwing a bunch of very roughly chopped ingredients into a big pot of water.

After all, stock is just flavored water. It can be flavored with meat, with seafood, with bones, with veggies, in an endless array of delicious combinations. If youíre being a purist, stock is unsalted, the rationale being that since you will be using it to cook some other, more involved dish, at a later point, it makes more sense to add the appropriate amount of salt for whatever specific dish your concocting. You can make stock from fresh, whole ingredients, or from leftover trimmings and scraps that youíve accumulated in your freezer over time. Itís cheap. Itís easy. Itís even sort of meditative.

What to put in Ö
Stock is a very personal substance, and what you put in will depend both on what you have available, and your own taste quirks. I tend to keep my freezer well-stocked with chicken and veggie stocks only, since itís rare that I have the necessary ingredients to make beef, veal or seafood stocks. Onions and carrots are probably the only ingredients that always make an appearance in my "recipes" Ė scallions, celery, mushrooms, garlic, parsley, and potato peelings also sometimes make their way in, though usually only if Iíve got any of those items leftover from something else Iíve cooked. I donít think Iíve ever made the exact same stock twice. Itís an extremely flexible recipe.

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