Sunday, January 6, 2013

Taking Stock ... A Cook's Connection

Guest Blogger, John Avey

I was in the kitchen the other day doing one of my favorite and admittedly mindless tasks -- chopping up stuff I was going to use to make a stock. Carrots, celery, onions, herbs, garlic gloves and a chicken carcass were all going into a big pot and in a couple of hours we would have a gallon of stock to use as needed. My favorite knife, a glass of wine close by and slowly sipped, music low in the background and my thoughts free to run through the tall grass of my imagination.

Suddenly, I was transported back to some Medieval castle kitchen!  There, in my minds eye, a cook, one of many in the large room -- knife in hand -- slowly chopping away at vegetables from the local lord’s garden -- all by candlelight.  I smiled at the thought -- this connection to a past time, person and place I could never have known -- doing essentially the very same task I was doing today.

Is there anything else we do today that is even remotely the same as it was centuries ago? Transport this long ago sous chef to my home today and imagine their confusion -- abundant fresh water, both hot and cold.

Magical blue flames constant from somewhere deep underground.

Or a big shiny box that is freezing cold inside and tiny bright orbs that light the darkness! Yet, I could hand over the knife, point to the boiling pot and stock makings -- I suspect they would know just what to do!

Then, like some Hollywood special effect, I time-warped 500 years into the future. Somewhere, someone was standing at a cutting board with a sharp knife and cutting vegetables to go in a stock.  The same task seen from a vastly different time and place.

That was when it struck me.  I loved this mindless task because it is so timeless.  It has not changed in a millennia and hopefully will not change in the next.  Preparing my stock connected me to the past in a way no written story could have.  There is a ton of information about past cooking techniques but there wasn’t a Medieval Anthony Bourdian documenting the gritty day-in day-out view of ancient cooking.

And what about that future sous chef?  Will he or she suddenly find themselves wondering about food prep in the year 2013?

Maybe with all these digital scribblings, they will not have to wonder.  They will know...

John's Homemade Stock Guidelines

Carrot, celery, onion, leek, garlic, fresh herbs, a bay leaf, peppercorns and meat bones/cartilage are all useful to flavor a stock.  Roughly chop to fit in a large stockpot.

Add water, enough to cover all of the goodies you just threw in the pot.

Season with kosher salt.  Bring to a boil.  Then lower to simmer covered for an hour and a half.  Our proxy supervisor keeps a watchful eye.

All the goodness is now permeated into the broth.

Lift out with a spider all the chopped ingredients and discard.

Pour the stock through cheesecloth to another pot to clear out any loose bits.

Save your broth into Mason Jars for future meal making.  Yes, there the Aveys go again with the Mason Jars....

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