Since these rainy, chilly spring days just keep on coming, we might as well cook accordingly. (OK, the high today is 88, but seriously, this is one long spring.)
Thanks to Paleo practitioners, broths have had an impressive revival of late, especially when sold as “bone broths.”
You’ll hear lots of people talking about them at this weekend’s PaleoF(x), one of the largest Paleo gatherings in the world. Friday through Sunday, those attending will gather to hear from cookbook authors, medical professionals and fitness experts at an event that has sold out for the past four years. There will also be an expo to showcase new products from companies including Epic, the Austin company that was acquired by General Mills earlier this year and is now selling a new line of bottled broths. (Tickets start at $30 for a day pass to the expo, and you can buy them at paleofx.com)
I didn’t care for Epic’s broths when we tried them in a recent video taste test, so I’ve been on the hunt for a homemade recipe that yields the rich broth you might have in a Chinese hotpot or Vietnamese pho.
Nick Sandler’s “The Magic of Broths: 60 Great Recipes for Healing Broth and Stocks and How to Make Them” (Kyle Books, $22.95) is one of many broth cookbooks that have been published in the past year, and unlike several other recipes I’ve seen, his calls for the correct technique of roasting the bones and meat first and then simmering gently for many hours.
Eight to 12 hours on the stove seems like a long time, but you could reduce that by making this in a pressure cooker, where an hour will do. The author recommends starting this in the morning on a weekend day when you have plenty of housework and other activities around the house to do, but you can also turn off the stove and cover the pot if you need to leave the house to run an errand. “And whenever my friends ask me what the secret of a good stock is, I tell them that simmering is good, boiling is bad and patience is paramount!” he writes.
How to use this liquid gold? Sandler includes recipes for borscht, pho, Chinese hot pot, barley stew and bourguignonne — but you can also sip on it for a nutrient-packed snack or warm-up for dinner, add a tablespoon to steamed vegetables or use it to amp up sauces and gravy.
You might have to order the marrow bones ahead of time from the grocery store or butcher, but international stores with large meat counters, such as MT Supermarket, sometimes have them in stock. You can also order them online or directly from the rancher at the farmers market.
Use an extra-large stockpot — at least 10-quart capacity. Start tasting the broth about an hour or two before you think it might be done. You want a rich, concentrated broth, so leave off the lid. However, if too much water evaporates, you’ll have to add some back in to get the right concentration of flavor. There is plenty of flexibility in combination of meat and bones that you use, but the total should be between 4 and 8 pounds.
3 to 5 lb. beef marrow bones or shanks, cut into sections or in half lengthwise
1-2 lb. beef scraps from lean meat
1-2 lb. oxtail, cut into sections
1 lb. shallots, trimmed and cut in half
1 large head of garlic, cut in half
1 medium leek, washed and cut in half
4 celery stalks, washed and broken in two
5 medium carrots, dirt removed, cut into chunks
1 medium turnip, sliced
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
Handful of thyme
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. (1/4 oz.) porcini mushroom powder (optional)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the beef marrow bones, beef scraps, oxtail, shallots and garlic on baking sheets and bake for 1 hour, until caramelized and brown. Transfer the baked ingredients to the stockpot and top with the rest of the ingredients. Fill with enough water to just cover the ingredients.
Bring just to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 8 to 12 hours over very low heat. Keep a watchful eye on the stock as it simmers. As the liquid evaporates, the stock will increase in temperature, so you’ll want to reduce the heat. You want to keep it gently bubbling and not boiling.
Decant through a large strainer into a voluminous bowl or saucepan and then further decant into airtight containers. Chill in a sink half filled with cold water to take the edge off the heat and, once at room temperature, place in the fridge, where it will store for up to a week.
— Adapted from “The Magic of Broths: 60 Great Recipes for Healing Broth and Stocks and How to Make Them” by Nick Sandler (Kyle Books, $22.95)