Tag Archives: fennel

Stocking Up!

During the fall and winter there is nothing I enjoy more than a steaming bowl of soup. Commercial stocks are inexpensive, plentiful and convenient, but they will never replace homemade. I typically make 36 quarts of chicken, and 24 quarts of vegetable stock each season, and freeze it for future use. Not only does the house smell terrific while it simmers, it is the foundation for all sorts of delicious meals that include soups, stews and risotto. I find that vegetable stock in particular, benefits from a little love and attention to the ingredients.

If you roast or brown the vegetables before you assemble the stock, the caramelization improves the flavor profile. Adding dried porcini mushrooms and tomato paste will impart a savory or umami element that deepens the end result. Unlike chicken stock which is simmered up to 24 hours, vegetable stock is simmered no longer than 90 minutes. The addition of herbs and onion skins add flavor and color to the stock.

VEGETABLE STOCK

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion (save the skins)
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 3 cups chopped carrot
  • 2 cups chopped parsnip
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (can leave skins on)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 large handfuls spinach

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Rehydrate dried mushrooms. Place the dried mushrooms in a 4 cup glass Pyrex measuring cup and pour 4 cups boiling water over them. Set aside.
  2. Brown the onions, celery, carrots, parsnips and fennel. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped vegetables and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring only occasionally. Be patient with the browning of the vegetables, as they have a high moisture content. It may take 10-15 minutes or longer to brown them.
  3. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color.
  4. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low. After 45 minutes add spinach. Continue to simmer for a total of 90 minutes.
  5. Strain the stock with a basket skimmer or slotted spoon, removing all the big pieces of vegetables and mushroom. Discard or compost. Set up a large bowl with a wire mesh strainer in it. Line strainer with a layer of cheesecloth. Using a ladle or 2 cup measuring cup, pour stock through strainer. When the liquid slows down, you may have to change the cheesecloth.
  6. Pour into jars, or 1 quart plastic deli containers and chill or freeze. Make sure you leave 1 1/2 inches of headspace if freezing.

Yields: 4-5 quarts

“The secret to change, is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” –Socrates