Wednesday, January 26, 2005

In praise of slow food
or, Health food doesn't have to be costly

Elai and Mosey hold the four corners of a square of cheesecloth over a glass bowl while I spoon the horrid-looking contents of my stockpot onto the square. It's an awkward operation and one of the girls slips and nearly drops her corner. "Be careful!" I shriek. "It took me three days to make this!"

We finally get it all done and by the end of the day every last drop of the stock has dripped into the bowl, so I put it into the fridge to set up overnight. In the morning, I skim off the fat then pour the resultant dark, slightly gelled liquid into a mason jar and label it:

Chicken demi-glace
use sparingly
18 January

There's only a pint of it, but I've used it, a tablespoonful or two at a time, in several dishes since then, and lemme tell you, it's potent.

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Saturday night, we had roast duckling for supper and I saved the carcass to make stock out of as well - cooked it in my stockpot along with carrots, onions, garlic, celery, fresh parsley, fresh thyme (homegrown!) and a bit of wine, and strained it out Tuesday morning. This time I rigged up a sturdy strainer: a cheescloth-lined colander placed over a large mixing bowl.

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Until I read about it in Nourishing Traditions I hadn't realized that there is a difference between stock and broth, and the difference is that stock uses bones. Now the funny thing about this, in an embarrassing sort of way, is that just a couple of months ago someone mentioned that jello is a good "high protein" food used in hospitals for patients who are having trouble digesting anything. Being a sometimes follower of the Protein Power diet, and knowing that gelatin only contains two amino acids, I poo-poohed the idea. So here I am officially acknowledging that I was mistaken... sorta.

Gelatin, which comes from bones, is not at all high in protein, but it acts as a protein sparer, which means that it helps your body use what protein you do take in more efficiently. So that's one point in favor of making stock once a week or so and using it as much as possible in your cooking - adding it to soups and seasoning veggies with it.

Another point is that when you make your stock, if you add a bit of wine or vinegar to it the minerals will be drawn out of the bones, making it richer in minerals than broths are.

Mrs. Fallon recommends making stock on a regular basis so you always have plenty on hand. It's not expensive at all - a whole chicken, cut up, is a lot cheaper than skinless boneless breasts and you have the bones left over anyway, so you might as well make something yummy out of them. Last week I got a package of marrow bones from the commissary for 14 cents a pound! And it really doesn’t take much time to do - you just have to plan way ahead!

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