For the novice cook, making a stock from scratch may seem like a troublesome, long, and tedious process requiring more time than it’s worth—at least, that’s the general consensus in the typical American steakhouse or chain restaurant. Pre-packaged bases and bouillons are the norm—add water, heat, stir.
A stock can be easy, simple, and immensely flavorful, requiring little effort but adding a savory hint of something elseness to the cuisine of its maker. Indeed, my introduction to the simple sachet came from the making of my first stock in a restaurant that seemed permeated by its subtle, earthy scent all day.
So what’s the deal? Do we boil vegetables and carcasses of various game hens for unseemly hours, or do we pack white fish bones in with mirepoix 3/4 material to H2O and simmer 20 minutes only, as in Escoffier’s recommendation for a fish stock?
Both Escoffier and the chef at the first fine dining restaurant where I was given the privilege of cooking recommended that 20 minutes was enough.
I can’t lay claim to knowledge of the specific science of stock-making as everyone seems to have their own trick for clarity—add an egg, an egg white, and ice cube, skim the surface while it summers, cool and let separate…on and on. The ways and wants of the perfect stock seem to be particular to the particular chef.
That’s right, even here at Cooking With Lemons, my preferred stock is a light veg stock with a sachet of herbs and spices and a large volume of water to veg, while my husband prefers roasting a chicken carcass and mirepoix in tomato paste and seasonings before bringing to a boil and skimming impurities at a simmer until you can no longer skim basically.
In truth, both are excellent. The best thing about cooking is that, while there is a “right way” much of the time in terms of what is traditional, there is also the way one has learned and adapted from years of experience and personal taste.
Think of whisking a hollandaise to life versus blending the thing. I’d rather whisk as a personal preference for the tactile closeness, but sometimes time is time. To be sure, the stock one brings to life has as much personality as it’s creator and can certainly add an element of signature quality to one’s cooking. From sauces, soups, and slurries to risottos, and even fresh pumpkin pie, the infusion of some simple spices and herbs with mirepoix brings a dish a long way from adding just water.
So here it is. The simple veg stock. Takes 20 minutes plus 5-10 minutes prep time (depending on how organized your spice cabinet is). We hope this simple, but wonderful, recipe will bring warmth and nourishment.
Simple & Light Veg Stock
4-7 carrots peeled
4-7 stocks of celery
2 Spanish onions peeled and quartered
Fill pot with your mirepoix and sachet.
Bring to a boil.
Simmer 20 minutes.
Strain solids. Let stock cool. Portion and store. This will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days. We like to make a big batch and freeze the leftovers. We use these storage containers from The Chef’s Path store on Amazon. See more on stock, kitchen storage/organization, and other scratch kitchen dos on social media @CookingWLemons.