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For soup lovers, some stock tips

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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After picking meat off the bones from two roasted chickens, my daughter was about to toss the carcasses into the garbage when I reminded her, "That's the best part."

Indeed it is. Whether it's the ready-roasted supermarket hen that you picked up on the way home from work, the leftover ham bone from the holiday dinner or the beef bones left on the serving platter, the remains of the meal are not scraps to discard, but treasured ingredients to form the basis of stock, the foundation of soup.

It's so automatic for me that before I clean up the kitchen post-dinner, I have filled the soup pot with water and added leftover bones and bits of meat, a few coarsely chopped vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, the latter with leafy tops if I've planned ahead) and aromatics (bay leaf, peppercorns). It's what I call my free meal -- waste not, want not -- simmered with the bits and pieces of produce found in my refrigerator crisper. No need for the vegetables to be at their best as their last remaining flavors will be extracted in the broth. The bones from the roasted meat result in a dark stock with plenty of flavor.

It's perfectly fine to use uncooked meat with bones (chicken breasts or thighs, or turkey neck bones, for example) to make the stock. But the richness of roasted meat bumps up the flavor in a way that suits me. (A lighter-colored, more delicate chicken stock will be the result of preparing it with raw meat.) No leftover bones? You can always brown or roast the bones before you start making the stock.

To make your own stock

Start with cold water. Cover the bones and vegetables with the water, so there's at least two inches of liquid above the ingredients. A tall soup pot is best (less water evaporates), but you can certainly use a smaller pot if that's what you have. Keep in mind that it doesn't take any longer to make a lot of stock than it does to make a little.

You'll want to bring the mixture to a boil, then drop it to a low simmer and keep it going, with the pot semi-covered, for as long as the meat and vegetables have something to offer. That's definitely for at least an hour, maybe two or more, adding additional water as the liquid reduces. The fragrance of the broth will waft through your kitchen like an aromatic humidifier.

Last steps for stock making

Once the stock is done, strain it (discarding the bones, meat and vegetables, all of which are tasteless by now) and cool the liquid in the refrigerator, where the fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to discard. Then you're ready to make soup.

What's the difference between broth and stock?

Stock is the foundation of many types of dishes, including soup. Broth is what it's called when you're serving it on its own or with other ingredients, such as noodles or vegetables. The biggest difference between the two is that broth is more highly seasoned than stock (stick with low-sodium broths when you're buying commercially made ones).

A quick version

Not enough time? You can make a quick version by doctoring store-bought chicken stock with your own vegetables for added depth of flavor (see recipe, right).

And now the real cooking begins, with either a favorite soup recipe or something new. Here are some options to warm you up on a cold day.

Wild mushroom and orzo soup with Italian meatballs

Note: If you decide to substitute store-bought meatballs for homemade, you may want to resize them (packaged ones tend to be large). Cut the meatballs in half and reroll them into a ball that is better suited for a soup bowl.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, minced

11/2 pounds wild mushrooms, sliced

1 rib celery, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

6 cups beef or chicken stock

Uncooked Italian meatballs (see recipe; see note)

1 cup uncooked orzo

1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In large pot, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, celery, salt, basil and oregano; saute until vegetables begin to soften and mushrooms have released liquid, about 5 minutes.

2. Add stock and bring to boil. Carefully add meatballs and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until meatballs are cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and bring soup to a boil. Stir in orzo and boil until tender, about 8 minutes. Add parsley, lemon juice, cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into heated bowls and pass additional cheese at the table.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 462 calories, 28 grams fat, 28 grams carbohydrates, 32 grams protein, 103 milligrams cholesterol, 1,033 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 52 percent of calories from fat.

-- From "300 Sensational Soups," by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds

Broccoli cheddar soup

Note: If preferred, substitute 4 cups chopped fresh broccoli instead of frozen.

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 (14.5-ounce) cans (31/2 cups) chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups milk or half-and-half

1 large chopped onion

2 (12-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli, or broccoli cuts, thawed (see note, above)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pinch ground nutmeg

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese or sour cream, for garnish

1. Melt butter over medium heat in a 4- to 6-quart stockpot.

2. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, to make a roux.

3. Add stock, milk, onion and broccoli and stir well. Turn up the heat and allow mixture to come to a boil, stirring occasionally.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let mixture cook until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes. Puree until smooth in 2 batches in a stand blender, or with a hand-held blender.

5. Return to pot and add the cheddar, stirring until melted. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Ladle into heated bowls and garnish with a heaping tablespoon of Parmesan or sour cream, if desired.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 344 calories, 24 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 508 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 56 percent of calories from fat.

-- From "Soup's On," by Valerie Phillips

Quick chicken stock

16 cups store-bought chicken stock

2 pounds chicken parts (necks, backs, breast bones, wings, etc.)

2 onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 carrot, sliced

1 rib celery, sliced

6 whole black peppercorns

3 parsley stems

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1. In large stockpot, combine stock, chicken parts, onions, garlic, carrot, celery, peppercorns, parsley stems, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and degrease stock.

Nutritional analysis per 1-cup serving: 42 calories, 3 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 3 milligrams cholesterol, 48 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 32 percent of calories from fat.

-- From "300 Sensational Soups," by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds.

Italian meatballs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 ounces lean ground beef

8 ounces lean ground veal

8 ounces regular or lean ground pork

1 egg

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute until onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.

2. In large bowl, using your hands, combine onion mixture, beef, veal, pork, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, salt, basil, oregano and pepper. To taste for seasoning, heat a small skillet over medium heat and fry a spoon-sized patty until no longer pink. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary. Roll into small meatballs about 11/2 inches in diameter.

Nutritional analysis per serving (4 meatballs): 266 calories, 19 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 93 milligrams cholesterol, 629 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 65 percent of calories from fat.

-- From "300 Sensational Soups," by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds

White bean, chicken and pesto soup

Note: Think of this as a "from the pantry" soup. Substitute any kind of canned bean or leftover meat, such as ham, pork or beef. The vinegar at the end of cooking heightens the flavor.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 rib celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cans (each 14 to 19 oz.) cannellini or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed (see note, above)

3 cups shredded cooked chicken (see note, above)

1/4 cup pesto (store-bought or your own), divided

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Extra-virgin olive oil

1. In large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrot, oregano and cayenne; saute for 2 minutes.

2. Stir in stock, salt and black pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add beans, chicken, 2 tablespoons pesto, vinegar; heat until steaming, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary.

3. Ladle into heated bowls and garnish each with a small dollop of remaining pesto and a drizzle of olive oil.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 369 calories, 15 grams fat, 28 grams carbohydrates, 39 grams protein, 63 milligrams cholesterol, 413 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber, 33 percent of calories from fat.

-- From "300 Sensational Soups," by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds

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