Vegetable stock: what makes it amazing and how best to use it?
July 28, 2014 2:29 PM   Subscribe

This is a two-part question.... I have the idea of a "stone soup" kind of fall gathering where everyone brings something to make a huge pot of vegetable stock. I need to know what makes good stock – what to put in and what to leave out – and then what should I make at the party for us all to eat and enjoy some of this stock right away?

I have a CSA this year and have been squirreling away all sorts of odds and ends in the freezer to make vegetable stock. However, in doing some actual research into this idea, it seems like the jury is mixed on what I should be including verses not (broccoli? carrot ends?). And to contribute to the "stone soup" party idea, I'd like to send out a list of "these are good" ingredients to the guests so that they can bring something appropriate to throw in.

Then, once we have the stock, I'd like to make a simple dish to show off our hard work. I'm thinking ramen? What's a good how-to for ramen or asian noodles? If you have another dish that would be simple and show off good veggie stock, please share!
posted by amanda to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The caveat about broccoli (and tomatoes, and mushrooms) is that those are pretty strongly-flavored, and they'd make a vegetable stock a bit less "all-purpose", for lack of a better word. Carrot ends are fine.

As for what soup that would show this off - how about a minestrone? That can continue the "stone-soup" aspect of it - guests can bring something for the stock, and then something for the minestrone. You can put just about any nice vegetable into a minestrone, and then round it off with canned beans and some small pasta. I literally make up minestrone recipes based on "whatever vegetables are fresh, plus whatever canned bean I need to use up and a cup of elbow macaroni".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:34 PM on July 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, and another couple random tips about vegetable stock -

* Leave the skins on the onions. That adds a boost of golden color to the stock.

* Roast some of the vegetables first for depth of flavor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:42 PM on July 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

I love a basic stock made with browned carrot/celery/onion and then boiled with some herbs (parsley, bay leaf) and some crimini mushrooms and a few cloves of garlic and some whole peppercorns. I also save Parmesan rinds and throw those in.

I'd make the stock and then solicit various veggies from friends to make the actual soup. I think a minestrone-style is a forgiving fit. Serve with crusty bread and you've got a fine meal.
posted by quince at 2:43 PM on July 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I hope it doesn't seem like I'm monopolizing - I seem to be having a Peter-Falk-as-Columbo moment, where I keep thinking of "one more thing".

Found you a few links to minestrone recipes to start you off - think of these more like suggestions and estimates on quantities of total vegetable matter than anything else. You can literally put just about any vegetable you want (although, with strongly-flavored vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, or mushrooms, use a light hand).

* A winter-vegetable minestrone from Giada de Laurentiis.
* Jamie Oliver's recipe.
* The Barefoot Contessa's recipe.
* Paula Deen's recipe (I notice she can't help but put things like bacon and sausage in there).
* A Moosewood minestrone recipe. (Ironically, the cookbook I use most often is a Moosewood publication, and has four completely different recipes for minestrone - all of them different from this one.)
* A minestrone using nothing but root vegetables.

As for ramen - this recipe is kind of close to a recipe for homemade ramen that I have - in that it starts with you poaching some pork to both use as the meat for the ramen, and to make the stock. I always skip that part of the recipe and just use whatever stock I have, and add an extra shot of soy sauce or something; for ramen, you need some vegetables, the ramen noodles, maybe some protein (if you want) and wedges of hard-boiled egg (also, if you want). Steam-cook the vegetables, warm up the broth, cook the noodles, and then - dump the noodles in the bowls, put some vegetables and/or meat on top and ladle broth over the whole thing. Top with extra bean sprouts or hardboiled egg if you're having that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:55 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Serious Eats has a fairly solid basic vegan stock recipe, and specifically discusses the challenges of vegan ramen here, with a recipe for udon.
posted by Kpele at 3:57 PM on July 28, 2014

We used to have "hobo" stew in the boy scouts, but for that we'd each bring a can to dump in the pot. It was always really good.

Stocks take a long time to cook, so I'm not sure how'd you handle that. Be ready to keep your guests entertained for a couple hours, I guess.

You'll also probably through out or compost most of the mushy stock vegetables. I like EmpressCallipygos's idea of having a stock round and a soup round of donations. Or, make the stock ahead of time & have guests just bring an addition to the minestrone / stone soup.

I would serve it with fresh bread. If you're good with timing then No-Knead Bread tastes delicious out of the oven.

Or perhaps have a 'soup bar' with additions that each individual can add to their bowl:

- Homemade garlic croutons.
- Aioli or pesto.
- Truffle oil (not quite hobo, though)
- Kale or other related greens.
- pre cooked rice or pasta.
- chopped onion, green peppers, hot peppers, etc.
- chopped herbs (green onion, cilantro, parsely, marjoram, etc)
posted by kanewai at 7:04 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Celery root (aka celeriac) is the secret weapon of my family's soups. Peeled and cut into little chunks. They should have it at any grocery near you that has a contingent of Eastern European shoppers.

(FYI, celery root is awesome in general. Put it in your risottos. Sub it for peas if you don't like peas. Slice it up and boil it half milk/half water, then drain, smash, and prepare as you would mashed potatoes. Except they're about 5x better.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:40 PM on July 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

After experimenting for years, the secret ingredient I found was Shiitake Mushrooms. Suddenly my broths transformed from flavorless and dull to tasty and delicious! They are, of course, also very appropriate in terms of flavor if you are planning a ramen or asian noodle dish.
posted by kyrademon at 7:31 AM on July 29, 2014

Julia Child's French onion soup is delicious with vegetable stock, and easy to make.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 9:36 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

My only caution is NO GODDAMN TURNIPS, unless you want stock in which the turnip flavour has stomped all over everything.

Other than that: you can go very minimalist with just onion, carrot, celery and a few herbs. A bay leaf or two is essential. Thyme and parsley, definitely. Some salt and black pepper to finish. Everything else is optional.

If you use wine, use a dry white. A cheap-ass pinot grigio is fine.

For a more rounded, darker stock, add the liquid from having soaked dried mushrooms. Add it towards the end of cooking.

If you're not cooking for vegans, quince's tip above about the Parmesan rinds is excellent.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:17 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Divorce how to   |   Help me make the most of the time my mother has... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.