Let me start by saying that homemade stock is the best. It is easy to make and freezes beautifully. I will also say that nothing compares with the flavor of homemade stock. You are in complete control of salt and all the other flavors that you choose to add.
That being said, I admit that I use “Stock in a Box” from time to time. It is convenient and once you find a brand that you like and that doesn’t offend your healthy sensibilities too much, it is great for quick soups and sauces. I’ve even been known to saute in it.
I was getting ready to make some soup the other day and was out of my homemade stock. The soup, which was going to be dinner couldn’t wait for me to make scratch stock, so I went to the pantry and found a box of chicken stock. Feeling somewhat adventurous, I decided to play with it a bit.
I decided it needed to be bulked up some so I added a leek, some garlic, and fresh herbs.I used my fool-proof method for cleaning leeks. Leeks are notoriously sandy and the sand loves to settle in the layers of the leek where it can create an unpleasant taste and texture experience.
This technique eliminates that. Once you have cut off the root end and the tougher dark green ends you can slice the leeks to suit the recipe you are creating.Drop the slices into a bowl of cold water and let them float there for 5 minutes or so.Carefully scoop out the leeks with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Dump out the water and marvel at the grit and sand in the bottom of the bowl that now will not ruin your creation.
Once the leeks were clean, I added them to a soup pot along with some garlic and herb sprigs. I let them all “sweat it out” for a bit in some olive oil before I added the stock.I let everything simmer for 45 minutes or so until the stock smelled incredible. The sprigs of rosemary and thyme that I used came out clean as the proverbial whistle. I diligently fished them out until I had the same number of stems that I started out with. This isn’t me being anal, it is saving my immersion blender from “choking” on the woody stems. Experience is a wonderful teacher…The stock that resulted was a bulked up and richer version of what came out of the box. It was a perfect addition to my soup. In fact, this may become a new Mama D standard when using stock in a box. I used chicken stock, but it would work equally as well with vegetable stock. You could even use this technique with homemade stock to give it a little more muscle. With Thanksgiving only days away, this could be a wonderful base for your gravy.
Whatever techniques and ingredients you use in your cooking, the most important thing to add is love. There’s a place for short cuts and convenience, even in Mama D’s Kitchen.