on my recent trip to california, i was overcome with joy when i spied a box of SPELT MATZO MEAL in whole foods. (the difference between la and ny whole foods to be written at a different time.) i almost wept tears of joy. but instead, i grabbed the box, made my way to the register, and packed it into my suitcase to fly back with me to ny.
in preparation for my matzo ball (passover) meal, i decided to make chicken stock and vegetable stock, and the matzo balls. the plan was vegetable stock wednesday, chicken stock thursday, matzo balls friday. i'm sorry, there's no way i could have had a big dinner in the middle of the week, i'm really not loyal to the religious celebrations.
so although canned/boxed stocks can get the job done, homemade stock is the best. and it's deceptively easy and affordable to make. just think of it as throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot. the two main issues for me seemed to be: 1. reduction/lid on or off? and 2. seasoning. first to address number 1. i often feel as though my stock reduces to almost nothing and although it's probably concentrated enough to add water, i just cannot bring myself to dull down the stock flavor. that being said, definitely start with PLENTY of water (aka a gigantic stockpot) and leave the lid mostly on. leave some room so that the stock can reduce but if you leave the lid completely off, everything will just evaporate away. number 2: do not be afraid to season! i tend to have a light hand with the salt but stock is really something that benefits from it. the safe thing to do is under salt and you can always add some later on. just taste as you go. now you're ready!
who better to turn to for a starter stock recipe than mark bittman? so i started with some bittman recipes for the veggie stock and went with a classic chicken stock recipe from the 2nd avenue deli. adapt as you see fit. stocks are quite forgiving.
chicken stock (adapted from epicurious and the 2nd avenue deli)
- 1 pound chicken parts
- 3 stalks celery, including leafy tops, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 2 halved onions, unpeeled
- 4 large whole carrots, peeled
- 1 leek, washed, trimmed and cut in chunks
- 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 1 bunch of dill
- pour 18 cups of cold water (depending on the size of pot you have) into a large stockpot, and throw in the chicken parts and celery. bring to a boil.
- cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. test chicken breast meat with a fork to see if it's tender and fully cooked; then remove it from the pot, and set aside. leave other chicken parts in the pot.
- add onion, carrot, leek, garlic, salt, and pepper. let soup simmer for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes. cook longer if you have time. (mine was on the stove for a total of about 3 hours.)
- add the parsley during the last hour of cooking.
- when chicken breast cools, remove skin and bones and cut into bite-sized pieces. you can add it to the soup, just before serving, or save it for something else.
- strain the soup, and discard everything solid except for the carrot.
- drop in the dill for a minute before serving and remove. add salt and pepper to taste. slice carrot and toss into soup. also add the chicken pieces if desired. if adding matzo ball, let them simmer in the soup for 15 minutes before serving.
veggie stock (adapted from the nytimes and mark bittman)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 unpeeled onion, quartered
- 1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped
- 1 leek, washed well, trimmed and cut in chunks
- 2 or 3 unpeeled cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 or 20 parsley stems, or stems and leaves
- salt and pepper
- put oil in a the bottom of stockpot and turn heat to medium-high. a minute later add carrots, onion, leek, celery, and garlic. cook about 5 minutes; then stir once or twice. when vegetables begin to brown proceed to next step. (if you have more time brown them well, stirring infrequently.)
- add parsley, bay leaves, 8 cups water and some pepper. bring to a boil, and adjust heat so mixture simmers gently. cook at least 30 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender. simmer longer, if you have time. (i simmered mine for about 2 hours.)
- strain. taste, and adjust seasoning before using or storing. if you have time, cool, refrigerate, and skim off fat.
- if serving with matzo balls, simmer in stock for 15 minutes before serving.
umm, i used a mix. it was the only spelt way i could find! two tips here: refrigerate the mixed dough before making matzo balls and don't crowd them in the pot! i didn't use schmaltz (there were vegetarians among us!) and the matzo balls still tasted delicious.