Of all the items on the menu, soup is that which exacts the most delicate perfection and strictest attention.
I used throw chicken scraps and vegetable peelings in a pot, boil it, do a bit of skimming, and then feel very virtuous about making stock. What a tyro I was!
Rachael Mamane, who runs Brooklyn Bouillon, has upped my game. In this book , she incorporates history, science, nutrition, technique, and flavor into a convincing polemic for carefully sourced home cooking.
And I’ve changed my ways. I don’t just throw anything into the pot but think about color and flavor balance. I don’t boil, but gently simmer, starting with the meat and then adding the vegetables. I wait to add salt, letting the simmer first draw out natural salts. And I skim, skim, skim. So now, in my fridge is a jar of light golden chicken broth that tastes like actual not salty box bird, and a jug of whey.
That jug is a testament to Mamane’s thoroughness. She goes through meat, fish, poultry, and vegetable stocks (in carefully flavored-focused options like Basic Tomato Stock, Green Tomato Stock, and Fire-Roasted Tomato Stock), but also covers dairy bases. In the past, when I’ve made ricotta by simmering together milk and buttermilk (a gallon and a quart respectively, and yes, that’s all there is to it), I’ve tossed the whey or at most, used it to water plants. This time I sieved it again, re-canted it into the milk jug and stuck it in the fridge. I’ve already used it to make bread dough and cook vegetables. Mamane suggests using as a base for soups and sauces. I suppose you could also use it too cook grains and pasta. Why let all that protein go down the drain?
You may think that you don’t need all these stocks and broths (stocks are the basic ingredient, broth is the culinary dish you may make with them). After all, you don’t cook like Escoffier building complex flavors from your ingredients. More often than not, it’s a quick stir-fry or bowl of spaghetti. Well, note above the use of whey, but also consider the variety of Mamane’s recipes. You could make a classic Beef Tea or a more up-to-date Turkey Broth with Grapefruit and Fennel to knock out your cold. If your Whole Food sells it, try Hay-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Poached Quince and Sumac Yogurt or, on some empty weekend, a Bouillabaisse Terrine.
Mamane’s approach is more than just a technical classical approach, but a no-waste, good taste approach that’s worth your attention.