Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Taking Stock in Stock

I've always thought making your own stock was a big waste of money.  Basically you are boiling the crap out of whatever you are using, making it inedible by the end.

And then, I tried making a roasted vegetable stock.

Great Gaia, is this stuff good!  And, when you come right down to it, it basically costs the same since you make about 3 quarts of the stuff.

I made a batch last week, and I have been amazed at how many ways I've found to incorporate it into my cooking.  Here's one of the dishes I came up with...

Roasted Vegetable Stock

1/2 pound carrots, cut into 1" pieces
2 parsnips, cut into 1"pieces
3 ribs celery, cut into 1" pieces
8 oz crimini mushrooms, halved
2 red onions, quartered with skins on
1 red pepper, cut into 1" pieces
1 head of garlic, halved
thyme bundle
1 bunch fresh parsley
3 bay leaves
2 Tbl tomato paste
1 tsp crushed red pepper
12 cups water
2 Tbl olive oil
salt 'n pepper

Heat oven to 450.  Arrange vegetables on a roasting pan or baking sheet in a single layer.  You may need to use two pans.  Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and crushed red, and toss to combine.  Throw on the thyme bundle and bay leaves, and roast those suckers for 35-40 minutes, turning veggies half way through the cooking time.

Once veggies are nice and roasty, transfer to a large stock pot and cover with 12 cups of water.  Add parsley and tomato paste.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered for one hour.

Pass stock through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids to release as much liquid as possible.  Discard veggies and store in air tight containers.

Baked Polenta with Mushroom Gravy

I love this dish on a cold night.  The crispy polenta is the perfect vehicle for the earthy mushrooms, and it comes together quickly, especially if you use store bought polenta!

For the gravy
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
8 oz oyster mushrooms, sliced
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbl olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cognac
2 Tbl fresh rosemary, minced
2 sage leaves, minced
2 cups Roasted Vegetable Stock
2 Tbl flour *
fresh parsley for garnish

Over medium heat, saute onions until golden about five minutes.  Add garlic and cook for one minute.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about five to seven minutes. Stir in sage and rosemary.  Add cognac, and flambe to burn off the cognac.  Once the flames have extinguished, sprinkle with flour and cook for about two minutes until the flour has browned slightly.  Add stock.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for five minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Preheat oven to 425.  While mushrooms cook, slice polenta into cakes.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush lightly with olive oil.  Bake cakes in the oven for 10 minutes, flipping half way through, or until lightly browned and crisp.

Place the polenta cakes on individual plates, spoon over gravy, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

*If you are avoiding flour, bring stock to a boil with 1/2 cup diced potato.  Once a fork slides easily into the potatoes, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add to the pan.

For the polenta

This takes a little bit of care, but it's a great work out for your arms!  Polenta can be made without the dairy, if'n you have a mind.

2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 cup polenta
pinch cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
4 sage leaves, minced
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

Bring milk and water to a boil with plenty of salt, bay leaf, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Slowly whisk in polenta, reduce heat, and continue whisking for about 10 minutes.  We don't want a clumpy mess.  Once the polenta is incorporated, switch to a wooden spoon, stirring occasionally, and continue to cook until polenta is smooth.  You may need to add more milk or water.  Discard bay leaf and stir in sage and mascarpone.

Line a 9 x 9 class dish wish plastic wrap, allowing for overhang.  Spoon polenta evenly into dish and cover with the extra plastic wrap.  Chill in the refrigerator until it is firm. 

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