One of the more satisfying things about roasting a chicken is the aftermath, when I’ve picked every piece of meat off its bones, laid down the jus-slicked roasting dish for my lucky, licky dogs, and then plunked a big Dutch Oven on the stovetop, ready to receive the carcass for a rich and hearty stock.
Sometimes I’ll make that stock in the slow cooker overnight, sometimes I only have two or three hours to simmer the bones with onions, carrots, celery or whatever else is lying around. But no matter what the method, the reward is always the same: A flavorful, deep chicken stock to elevate soups, polenta, risottos, and braises. Knowing a batch is in the freezer is money in the bank.
Ever since our Weekday Vegetarian undertaking, though, obviously this does not happen as frequently, and I miss it. I miss the ritual and I really miss the stock and the depth it brings to otherwise boring dishes. I’ve experimented with many many store-bought and homemade vegetarian stocks, but everything has left me somewhat underwhelmed.
Until last weekend when I discovered the trick for a hearty homemade broth: roasting the vegetables before they’re simmered. I had an embarrassing amount of unused vegetables left in my CSA bag — zucchini, large scallions, bell peppers, even some end-of-the-season corn, so I put them to good use. tossing them with onions, mushrooms, peppers, and various odds-and-ends from the crisper drawer, olive oil, salt, and pepper right on a foil-lined baking sheet, and roasting at 400°F for about a half hour. It was just enough to concentrate their flavors before I slid everything into a Dutch oven, covered with water, and simmered for another 2 hours with a Parm heel and a bay leaf.
I’ve used it to make a farro-risotto (recipe on the way) and a vegetarian version of my beloved tortilla soup. I’m not sure what’s on the menu this week, but it’s sure nice to know that stock is there.