Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lessons on Using Bones for Stock

Last weekend we had my good friend/former student, Anna (now of Anna Rosie Bakes fame!) and her wonderful significant other, CDR, come up for the day and just hang and eat and drink.  We had a fantastic time, even though our dog was running around in a make-shift diaper the entire time.

After snacking on bacon-wrapped dates and poufy gougères

Gougères straight from the oven!

and imbibing several glasses of Campari-laced cocktails, we settled down for dinner.  The main event of our main course was a frenched pork loin roast, "the crown roast of pork" my butcher's assistant declared.  We used a delicious recipe from—you guessed it, BA.  It is a cider-brined pork roast in which you brine the pork for hours, dry rub it for a few more, then roast it with veggies to browned perfection.  (If you want to make a great mistake, try brining it with unfiltered cider vinegar by accident.  I think I liked it even better!)

But this post is not to be about the roast.  It is about the bones that we saved from the roast after we devoured it that night and the next day.  Bones that called to me yesterday morning through the gray drizzle on the windows and the wet leaves plastered to the driveway.  It was a day to hole up and do some winter kitchen prep: stock.

I've always been scared in the past to make soup and stock, but my food reading over the past year has really pounded into my head that when it comes to the history of peasant foods, like soups and such--there really wasn't a recipe.  It was whatever you had on hand thrown into a pot and (usually) cooked low and slow for a long time to yield whatever tasty treat your random items were going to give you that particular time.  The poor couldn't be picky, and so every time the results were different.

I decided that I was going to be okay with that and not let my anal side be bothered by the fact that I wasn't going to be able to exactly replicate this stock if I really liked it.  So I did what the peasants did.  My stockpot was soon loaded with the rib rack, old carrots, old celery, a couple halved onions, some sage and thyme that were on their last legs, a couple cloves of garlic, and a lot of salt and pepper.  I filled the pot up with water, set it on the stove over low heat, draped the lid almost on the whole way, then let it all go for hours.

Sigh. It's just delightful to me that this:

Veggies and bones in the pot for bone stock

can turn into this:

Jars of bone stock made from leftover bones and old veggies

Oh, what yummy soups these are, just waiting to be made this winter....  And all for the five minutes of prep time that it took to rinse my ingredients and throw them in the pot and the other 10 that it took to strain and jar the stock.

Good grief! I've got to do this more often!

A Foodie's Fallish Philosophy on Her Cooking Life

I've just come in from putting the dog out.  The fog is beautiful this morning.  It's not the dark, murky fog that's been creeping around all week long.  It's the kind that hovers and glows, its whispery essence highlighting the faintest of frost on the fallen leaves, inspiring deep, gulping breaths of the fall air.

My senses and imagination go into overload in such moments.  Such transcendent beauty, for me, makes time stand still, and I want to put my hand out and hold it there.  It is the freest that I ever feel, being trapped in those moments.  

And then they are gone, like waking up from a dream, and I am left with the same drive every time: bless the beauty of this world then go out and enjoy every fricking moment of your life.

And so here I am, writing you all.  You, my readers, are what I love.  You and the food that I write to you about.  It's not a choice that I make.  It just is.  Time has transformed not only food for me, but it has transformed me through food.

Michael asked me last night over a dinner of cottage pie, "Do you eat to live or live to eat?"

"Definitely live to eat," I replied.

He laughed.  "My health teacher would say that that is exactly what you should NOT do."

I smiled.  I knew what that question was supposed to mean.  It implies that living to eat is being obsessed by food and not caring about the health factors of any of it, eating "whatever you want" because you only go around once. For me, it conjures images of 300-lb. individuals surrounded by hordes of food, like Ben Stiller in the end credits of Dodgeball.  

Eating to live implies making intelligent and healthy choices about what we eat, therefore extending our quality and length of life because we aren't putting things into our bodies that are toxic in one way or another.

My food philosophy, I came to realize as we talked, is politic cooking with abandonment.  If you've read the posts on this blog over the past year, you know that I am very concerned about the healthiness of what I eat.  I understand fully that what goes in either does good or bad, and the amount of damage caused is something I will have to live with.  But that doesn't mean that I'm stuck with bran muffins and broccoli the rest of my life.  Although I love bran muffins and broccoli...  

My point is: being healthy does NOT mean that you can't absolutely love the food that you are eating, nor does it mean you can't constantly think about food. I am always thinking about the next meal because I love everything that goes into cooking and experiencing new foods.

And when it comes to sweets, The Millstone around the psychological neck of anyone starting to think of "eating healthy," here's the deal: for me--and this is truly for me, in accordance with my personal philosophy--that does not mean that I never eat something "unhealthy."  Chocolate chip cookies are not a healthy choice to eat every day.  They are not a healthy choice to eat every week.  But if I make a batch of cookies once a month to share with friends, and I eat a few of those cookies, savoring the buttery, chocolate-y warmth of every bite that makes my soul sing--that is a psychologically healthy choice for me.  Because telling myself "no" forever is just not going to work for me.  And--I could be wrong, but--eating a chocolate chip cookie or two once a month most likely is not going to shave off months of my life.

So there it is. My thoughts on my cooking life. I guess I live to eat to live.  

Oh, how fog can lead to philosophy...

So...what's yours?

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