cooking with herbs

For the best beef stock, use a pressure cooker.

I cook seasonally, and winter cooking means stocks. That can be using bit of chicken stock to deglaze a pan or beef stock to add richness to a stew. Stock is like the most basic soup you’ve ever had. It’s a clear liquid with meaty flavors; a good stock is fine to eat on its own, but it shines when it can augment a dish. It is like the bass in a rock band; it’s not the melody, but you’d notice its absence. The three things that make a great stock are:

  • Richness: A meat stock should taste meaty! It should have a hearty, tasty flavor. If you use vegetables, you get those coming through clearly as well.
  • Body: A good stock should set like Jell-O when it’s cold. This is a feature, not a flaw. That setting is from gelatin, which melts when warm and makes the stock slightly thicker. Yeah, I know that gelled stock sounds gross, but you can really notice a difference; thin stock doesn’t taste as good because it doesn’t coat our mouth like stock with gelatin does.
  • Aroma: Great stocks smell rich, too. This means that you’re getting a full meat aroma and if you use vegetables or aromatic herbs, they are clear and inviting. A good stock simmering makes your whole house smell good.

Commercially-made chicken stock does a decent job of all three things here, but beef stock is all wrong. It’s not worth buying, it’s so bad. To find out why you should skip the commercial version and easily make your own, keep reading for my stock tips. (NOTE: my pictures I took for this sucked so I’m going to re-shoot and add them in later; I didn’t want to miss my Tuesday publishing time, though!)

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Long-braised Pork with Classical Winter Herbs

finished pork plate

I thought we were out of winter, but the 20 degree nights have me covering our flower beds with blankets and bringing in the container plants. It felt right to use woodsy winter herbs in this classical pork braise, then. I cooked spare ribs the other night and trimmed off the section of meat that is attached above the ribs – the rib tips. This section has meat running about eighty different directions and it’s shot through with pieces of cartilage. I don’t cook it with the ribs because it never cooks quite the same as the rest and let’s be honest – nobody is really fighting over that section at dinner. Americans don’t eat cartilage. Off it went into the fridge to be braised over the weekend.Read the rest of this post…