I thought I’d squeeze in one more hot soup blog before the weather gets toasty and our thoughts turn elsewhere.
Lately, I’ve been making a big pot of vegetable soup on the weekends, starting with homemade beef stock. I went through a phase when I bought beef stock from the store – there are so many good quality ones these days, and it definitely saves time – but honestly, nothing compares to the real thing. And last year, I got inspired to return to homemade stock after we did a fun 225 Magazine story on great local soups. I had the best time picking the brains of local chefs on what makes their signature soups so delicious. Some soups were cream-based, and their success turned on straightforward decadence. But others, like Dang’s pho, MJ’s Café’s black bean and Galatoire’s Bistro’s turtle, were soups that rose and fell on house-made stocks. No surprise, they were tended for many hours at a time.
Chef Kelley McCann at Galatoire’s Bistro told me about roasting a medley of veal bones, including lots of gelatinous joints, before simmering them for hours in order to make a super rich reduction for the restaurant’s signature turtle soup. Even Maureen Joyce’s vegetable stock, used in her black bean soup at MJ’s, called for overnight slow-roasting of multiple root vegetables. Soup seems so simple, but a really good soup requires some behind-the-scenes work.
I’m not sure I have that much time to devote, but I can certainly muster a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon while I’m hanging out with my family and doing loads (…and loads…) of laundry.
So, the question is, which bones are best for creating a stock that makes your soup sing?
I’ve got it down to two: short ribs and oxtails. Both work great, and are about the same price. They each include plenty of fat, rich beefy flavor and lots of marrow, which adds generously to the flavor – and health – profile.
Here’s what you do:
To the bottom of a medium stock pot, preferably with removable strainer like this one, add 1 ½ lbs. short ribs or oxtails. Fill pot with water to ¾ full. Add two yellow onions that have been cut into large pieces, 3 celery stalks with leaves cut into large pieces, 3-5 carrots cut into large pieces, a few peeled whole garlic cloves, a tablespoon of peppercorns and 3-5 bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add 1 tablespoon Kosher salt. Let simmer for 2-4 hours. Turn off heat. Strain the bones and cooked vegetables.
You can use the stock to make soup immediately, or you can refrigerate it overnight and skim the fat the next day, which will have risen to the surface. I used to be vigilant about skimming the fat, but now I leave it. It makes a superior soup, and I’m way past the point of counting calories.