Saturday, July 30, 2016

Broth & Stock

Title:  Broth & Stock from the Nourished Kitchen
Author:  Jennifer McGruther
Publication Information:  Ten Speed Press. 2016. 183 pages.
ISBN:  1607749319 / 978-1607749318

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Most days of the week, I keep an enameled cast-iron pot on the back burner of my stove where bones simmer in water to make broth."

Favorite Quote:  "They are foods not only of comfort, but also of frugality and the pressure to waste as little as possible, lest bellies go hungry. In this way, to make broth not only fills the functional role of sating hunger and thirst, but also teaches us a lesson in the values of patience, simplicity, and thrift. There is virtue in the humble soup pot."

A warm bowl of soup has long been the cure for many ills in many household. A bowl of chicken soup to help a cold. A hot mug of broth to warm up the winter. A rich fragrant stock to cook rice. Making broth is a normal part of my cooking life and a centuries old traditions found in almost every culture throughout the world. Broth, particularly the idea of bone broths, is not a new trend, but a cooking staple made popular and made the "in" thing through restaurants, websites, and book such as this one and Brodo: A Bone Broth Cookbook.

This book "out of the box" is beautiful. I love the many pictures and consistency of the photography. The book has many full page images; most of them feature a bowl set upon a wood texture. This consistency creates a unified feel to the entire book. The wood textures emphasizes the homey, rustic feel that a bowl of soup conjures up. The simplicity of the bowls and the photo angles allow the food in the bowls to shine.

Now the content. What is broth? At its very basic interpretation, it is water given richness, flavor, and dimension by what you choose to add to the water. The possibilities are endless, from kitchen scraps to cuts of meat bought specifically to this purpose. So, why a cookbook? I look for three things. The first is new ingredients and combinations that I have not considered before. The second is techniques by which to improve my cooking. The third is innovative ways in which to use this flavorful base.

This book starts off with about fifteen master broth recipes, covering a variety of bases (chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, and a few that can be made with no meat products). The master recipes use very few ingredients or seasonings, allowing the broth to be used further as a ingredient in other recipes. If the intention is to drink the broth as prepared, the cook will have to apply their own flavors to the broth resulting from these master recipes. A concern for me is that most of the master recipes use wine as an ingredient. As someone who neither drinks nor cooks with alcohol, this is an issue. The introduction discusses the use of an acid in broths and suggests wine or vinegar, clearly stating a preference for wine. I do use vinegar in my broths; so, be warned, that vinegar for wine is not a 1:1 substitution. I use a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to a pot of broth; the book unfortunately, does not give the substitution amount for its recipes.

The techniques in the book discuss the same techniques found in other soup references. Broth making is a combination of the ratio of ingredients to water, flavorings, skimming and straining, and the length of time a broth is cooked. Vary these combinations, and the end product changes. The book does go through some of the options and variations and the impact of each. The one idea new to me is the technique to create your own instant stock powder. I have made and frozen stock and broth for future use but never cooked it down to then dehydrate it. It is an intriguing idea, especially if you are short on freezer room.

Beyond the techniques and master recipes, the books includes about "forty recipes using these stocks in complete meals." The only issue is that not all the recipes are based on the broths themselves. Some such as a roast chicken, oxtail stew, and chicken in wine with mushrooms, peas, and herbs use no broth at all. Some such as the broth for infants and the beef tea are in effect recipes for other kinds of broths. Some such as the cream of chicken soup do not not rely on a master recipe but rather incorporate the broth making process into the recipe itself. While the photographs look tempting, the grouping of recipes and the entire book itself does not follow what it sets out to deliver.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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