Cooking stock (and kitchen stock)


Two random items, that suddenly came smashing together…

Random Item Number One – Kitchen inventories and pantry items

Frequent readers might recall that, on more than one occasion, I have wandered around the supplies in a kitchen. One idea being how there are some items we never use. In fact, even if we do use something for a recipe or two, the reality is that in considering freshness and use by dates it would probably be a bit more efficient to just purchase the item and toss the remainder in the trash… because it won’t be needed again for years.

Fair? Maybe not. But think for a moment, and tell me if you have any of these in your kitchen right now: cardamom, juniper berries, cream of tartar, saffron, vanilla paste (or vanilla pods) and tarragon.

(There are many people that consider cream of tartar as much of a staple as any style of vinegar. There are also people looking at that list and laughing because they have none of them.)

Random Item Number Two – Good Eats: Reloaded (Episode: “Pressure”)

Have you been watching Alton Brown’s run with Reloaded? Good stuff overall. A fun return to his classic Good Eats show, and one of the best parts has been the way he admits to changes that have come over time. (Specific examples include his preferences and approaches to recipes, the advancements in things like equipment, and how new research and information has adjusted his way of thinking.)

During the “Pressure” episode, Alton discussed stocks and broths, and in particular brought us his recipe for beef broth. And it is at this point where item number one crashes into item number two, eventually leading to me writing this essay.

Some of the ingredients in AB’s Beefy Broth include: fennel seed, a cinnamon stick, star anise and palm sugar.

The problem for me came from the idea that this is not even close to a basic broth recipe. Sort of.

First… seriously, man on the street style… someone asks you for the ingredients in making a beef broth from scratch at home. Ready? Go…

After naming your source of the beef portion of the recipe, I would argue that the most commonly cited items would be water, onions, celery, black pepper and salt. A few people might venture into areas such as carrots and other assorted veggies or spices. But the big thing is, I think common items would end up being listed. And that’s it. I seriously doubt if fresh ginger or cinnamon sticks would get a single mention.

All of this said, a step to the side for a moment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Alton Brown’s recipe. Nothing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m intrigued and believe it would be quite good. Might be able to deliver medical miracles. Also, I like Alton Brown, especially with regard to his efforts around the culinary world. And, I’ve seen plenty of other cooking shows were dishes were prepared with interesting and potentially very unexpected ingredients.

What made this recipe suddenly stand out actually had nothing to do with unusual ingredients or a twist on what most would classify as a foundation recipe with the addition of unusual ingredients. (A foundation recipe being something you might use to build upon. Beef broth being made occasionally to be served on its own, but usually to be used as an ingredient.) Instead, it was the specific unusual ingredients that were being called upon for this recipe.

I already covered the ground of asking a person what items you might need to create a homemade beef broth. Here’s a twist on the question that combines Alton Brown’s recipe and the concept of our own kitchen inventories: Do you have fennel seed, cinnamon sticks, star anise or palm sugar in your home right now? It’s the answer to that question that truly creates the sudden jump to attention and distraction for me.

Chances are good I won’t be making Alton’s recipe. The cinnamon sticks could likely find a place in several of my recipes, and the ginger would get used quite often. Can’t say the same for the star anise or fennel seed.

On the other hand, I am once again reminded that I would love some fresh snickerdoodles. But that means I need to head out for some cream of tartar. (And tarragon. I just found a recipe for a mushroom dish that includes tarragon.)


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