Soup weather is upon us and it’s easier to make than you’d think. Even the simplest vegetable stock — an onion, a carrot, a celery stalk, a few other scraps, cooked together for 20 minutes — can make a difference in most soups. And a grand, full-flavored chicken, meat, or fish stock is good enough to serve on its own. In fact, bone broths so popular right now are nothing more than stock cooked for hours — and sold at quite a markup.
With planning, stock need not be expensive: It’s easy enough to start with bits of vegetables that you’ve frozen and saved over the course of weeks, the trimmings and ends from aromatics, and herb stems. Just avoid strong tasting vegetables like broccoli and asparagus, and bitter ones like eggplant and bell pepper.
Beyond vegetables, the meaty raw bones of a single chicken, combined with a few vegetables, provide enough flavor for a pot of stock. Same thing with seafood in the shell, whole fish, or any other meat on the bone. Figure about a pound of bits and pieces per quart. So if you keep containers going in the freezer, you can use just about every butchering scrap except fat, chicken skin, and fish gills and innards.
Anything you like to eat whole might be considered a candidate for the stock pot: a mild or hot fresh chile, a few cloves of garlic, which will become quite mellow; some dried mushrooms (almost always appropriate); herbs or herb trimmings. You know what you like. Use these recipes as a guide as opposed to a formula.
Makes about 12 cups
Time: About 1 hour, somewhat unattended
Making good vegetable stock takes a little work: You really should cut the vegetables into small pieces and brown them at least a bit. You can do without these steps, but the flavor won’t be the same. I also add mushrooms and soy sauce, which make a big difference. Despite all of this, preparation and cooking take less than an hour.
4 large carrots, sliced