Monday, January 25, 2016

QUICK BITE: Bone Broth, Your Way

It's the dead of winter, and the entire east coast has just been hit with a major blizzard. This past weekend was, as they say, perfect "cooking project" weather. And it still is: perfect for a good, long simmer of beef bones thick with marrow on the stove, perfuming the air of your home and warming your kitchen. And then, once this broth is made, you can do so much with it. It's great just as is, of course. Much has been made of a "bone broth" revolution of sorts. Really, this is just broth, stock, whatever your want to call it -- that's been the base of soup and sauce recipes for ages. 

Some say to roast the bones and veggies in the oven first; I usually like to keep in uncomplicated when cooking this at home, and just use one pot -- a great big soup pot that's wide enough so that you can first roast the beef bones in one layer. I use a mix of marrow bones and some with a little meat on them, like short ribs or oxtail. I encourage a little caramelization with some tomato concentrate on top of the bones, and roast them on the stovetop or oven first until browned. Then I add the the carrots, onions, and celery (leeks and shallots if you're feeling it), along with lots of water, peppercorns, and a bay leaf. And really, that's it. This needs to simmer slow and low for as few as 6 hours, and as many as 24. Skim the ft occasionally from the top, and when it's done, strain it, cool it down and then place in storage containers in the fridge to completely cool overnight. This allows you to easily scrape the fat off the top the next day.

Now, the fun part. of course, you can sip the beef broth as is, even in a mug like the most restorative cup of coffee and lunch, combined. But the great thing about making a huge potload of beef broth is getting creative with it! You can freeze some in ice cube trays and then store in a ziploc bag in the freezer for use in sauces and individual servings later on. You can add some noodles and some vegetables and have a beef noodle soup. You can caramelize a pan full of sliced onions, sprinkle with flour, and add the broth for a wonderful French onion soup (top with a baguette slice and gruyere cheese for the real deal!). 

Or, make a wonderful, healthy, super-tasty Vietnamese-inspired version, like you see here. I took the basic beef broth and simmered it with a bit of soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, pineapple chunks, chopped lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, star anise, szechuan peppercorns, coriander seed, and chili pepper. The broth was infused with all of these warm and spicy notes over the course of about 2 hours.
Just before serving, I added some rice noodles, thinly-sliced bok choy, fresh cilantro and mint, a healthy squeeze of lime juice, and a bit of sriracha sauce, both blended in and drizzled on top. This is an incredibly fortifying soup-as-meal that's great both in cold weather and in hot. It's both edifying and refreshing. And it's utterly satisfying. You can create your own variations on this Asian noodle soup theme: add some red or green curry paste, a protein of choice, any kind of greens, herbs, citrus, spices. Have fun playing with your food! Keep warm, and keep cooking...

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