Friday, September 23, 2011

Stock Pot Soup

Today, I stayed home from school with a case of bronchitis that has fluid rumbling around inside my lungs. The prospect of a whole free day had me thinking about the cookbook. I did do an inventory of uncooked recipes this summer. Even though I had cut the soup and appetizer inventory in half, for example, I still had a long way to go. It seemed like a great opportunity to tackle one of those long involved recipes, like stock pot soup which has to cook for four to five hours. I would rather wait until cooler weather sets in, but I've got the time now, so I decided to fog up the windows with soup steam and turn up the air conditioning.
So after I dropped my husband, who is going to San Francisco, off at the Metro, I went to the supermarket. This recipe has a long ingredient list, and is not cheap. Also, nowadays, it's not easy to find things like beef bones. Meat, as the butcher guys at various supermarkets have patiently told me, is delivered already partially butchered. There are no stray bones at the supermarket. Chicken is the same. I needed a 3 pound whole chicken, and actually couldn't find one at Safeway. It's all prepackaged.
I went first to my local Safeway in the drizzle, but beef bones and the three pound chicken were not to be had. So I drove up to the Westbard Giant on River Road, where I had actually had a conversation with the butcher about veal shanks. They had three pound chickens and beef marrow bones. As far as a veal knuckle goes, the refrain of the butcher guys is, "I haven't seen those in ten years."
This recipe is a reminder of how much food and cooking have changed over the last 50 years. What was 50 years ago basically extra stuff, bones, chicken wings, chicken carcasses, now has to be purchased specifically, or left out because it's not available. I have always preferred whole chickens to chicken parts, and cut up my own chicken. This yields chicken backs, which my husband calls chicken asses, that can be used for soup. A search in the freezer under the refrigerator produced only one chicken ass.
When the kids were young, I could usually count on 4 or 5 chicken asses lurking down there that I could make into soup. But now, since we are down to two diners, and I don't cook as much as I used to, there are fewer asses.
I dragged all the bones, wings, vegetables, etc. home, having to come through the back because a "suspicious package" had been discovered at the local high school, and an impressive collection of fire equipment was parked in front of my house. I dug out the big pot and started tossing in ingredients. One thing about this recipe is, it's long, but not fussy. Only the turnips have to be peeled. We aren't directed to cut anything up. I broke the unpeeled carrots in half so they would fit in the pot. I didn't even peel the onions, although I did stick each of them with four whole cloves, as directed.
The whole preparation process took about 15 minutes. Then, I set it to boil and began emptying the dishwasher. At 2:30 I put in the brisket. I think my stockpot holds at least 10 quarts, but there would have been no room for the chicken. Also, the idea is to serve the brisket and chicken when hot, and right now, there's no one here to eat either one with me.
At 3:45, when I woke up from my nap, I took out the brisket, inspected it, found it not done on the side that had not been submerged in the water, and stuck it back in the pot. Then I turned off the gas and went off to Office Depot to spend my teacher supply money, something I had not had a chance to do since school started. When I got back, the house was full of a wonderful meaty smell. I dredged out the bones and cooked vegetables and drained the soup into two large bowls.
Right now, I'm running the dishwasher to clean the large size canning jars so I'll have something to put my stock in.
While this has a lot of ingredients, some of which are not obtainable, it is not a difficult recipe. Some day this winter, when the weather forecast is calling for a foot of snow, lay in the ingredients and boil away. You'll be glad you did.

Stock Pot Soup

4 pounds, more or less, fresh or cooked chicken carcases, beef bones or veal bones
3 pounds chicken wings
1 veal knuckle
2 beef marrow bones
2 large onions, each studded with four whole cloves
3 cloves garlic
6 carrots
4 leeks, trimmed split in half and well washed
3 white turnips, peeled
3 bay leaves
2 cups dry white wine
6 tablespoons coarse salt
16 peppercorns
6 sprigs parsley
Top leaves and outside ribs of six celery stalks
3 pounds brisket of beef
1 four-pound to five-pound chicken

1. Place the carcasses, wings, veal knuckle, marrow bones, onions, garlic, carrots, leeks, turnips, bay leaves, wine, salt, peppercorn s, parsley and celery in an eight to ten quart kettle. Add cold water to within two inches of the kettle rim. Bring slowly to a boil and skim frequently as necessary. Let simmer so that the broth barely bubbles four to five hours.
2. One hour before the broth is to be removed from the stove, add beef brisket and chicken. Cook until brisket and chicken are cooked and tender. Remove the chicken and brisket, which may be served at this point, using as much broth as necessary.
3. Strain all the broth and store in pint and quart containers. Refrigerate overnight. Skim off all fat, then freeze the stock. Makes five to six quarts strained broth.

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