Vegan Interlude: The Best Vegetable Cooking Stock

Guest Blogger: I asked my smoking, grilling, meat cooking, and occasionally vegan friendly man to contribute this to DiggingFood.com

I’m not generally one for promoting veganism. My reverence for meat is so profound I’ve had to interlope in this very blog to spread the gospel. But I certainly don’t think of it as a dirty word. Throughout my life I’ve had many occasions to cook vegetarian and vegan meals and actually appreciate the constraints that it provides me in the kitchen. With most of my recipe development I try to layer in as many deep and unctuous flavors as I can. Yet, when I started creating vegan and vegetarian dishes I couldn’t find a vegetable broth that was as appropriately strong and rich as I required. So, I set about trying to develop my own that would be as full-bodied as a beef stock. After years of refinement I think that this recipe is as close of a mimic as one can get.

Tutto fa broddo is an Italian expression meaning “everything makes broth.” While it may be a valuable optimists mantra for when life gives you proverbial lemons, it’s lousy advice for this recipe. Brassicas,  greens (like carrot or turnip tops), and leftover veggie skins can add a bitter vegital  flavor. I prefer a more curated  list of ingredients. A handful of root vegetables, alliums, herbs and few particular adjuncts for targeting the flavor is what has made this work best. But the real secret to it all is roasting.

Nerd alert:

I mentioned above about creating layers of flavor in this recipe. One of the most profound ways to do this is to roast the veggies. While the different vegetables all contribute their own unique flavors, roasting them adds a ton of sweetness and complexity through 3 major mechanisms: Maillard reaction, Strecker degradation and caramelization. Briefly, the Maillard reaction (MR) and subsequent Strecker degredation (SD) are reactions between sugars and proteins that are responsible for changes in color and flavor in foods. Caramelization is an additional process that occurs strictly in the sugars. The sugars can be inherent,  produced from MR and SD and also come from the breakdown (via heat) of starches and complex carbohydrates that are the plant fibers and cell walls. It is a magical chemical alchemy that creates a hearty meaty flavor and aroma in this meatless broth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Typically, I like to make this in the winter. The root vegetables tend to be sweeter after a frost which also helps with the “layering.” And remember, not everything below is a required ingredient. I’ve never made the same broth twice and will vary this recipe based upon what I may plan to use it in and what I can find at the market. You can, obviously, make adjustments to satisfy your whims.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients:

  • 5 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Veggies:

  • 5 carrots
  • 4 parsnips
  • 4 turnips
  • 1 rutabaga (peeled)
  • 6 celery stalks (and butts from 2 bunches)
  • 1 large red bell pepper (can also add 1 jalapeno for some spice)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 leeks
  • 4 green onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6 oz crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup dried chanterelle mushroomsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Herbs & Spices:

  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbs rubbed sage
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 cloves

Adjuncts:

Note: I also really like to add celeriac, but I couldn’t find any so I upped the celery and celery seed.

 

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F
  • Clean veggies, but you can leave the skins/peels on except for the rutabaga. These are usually sealed in a thick wax so you want  to cut all that off.
  • Cut the carrots, parsnips, turnips and rutabaga (hard veggies) into approx. 1 inch squares, drizzle with oil and put in a single layer onto a rimmed baking sheet. 

  • Halve the pepper, onion and apple, cut the celery and leeks in 2 inch pieces. Place in a bowl with garlic cloves, green onions and fresh crimini mushrooms (soft veggies), drizzle with oil and then put in a single layer onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Place pans in oven.
  • Place herbs, spices and adjuncts into a large stock pot.
  • After 15 minutes,  move the veggies on both pans around with a spatula to to brown other sides.
  • Roast for another 15 minutes and then pull the soft veggies and dump into the stock pot. Move the hard veggies around with a spatula to to brown other sides.
  • After another 15 minutes, pull the hard veggies and dump into the stock pot.
  • Cover with water.
    • This is “the variable” step. Depending on the size and number of your root vegetables it is impossible to give an actual amount. I usually fill a couple of inches over the pile, but I like a strong broth.
  • Bring water to boil on high.
  • After it is boiling, turn down to a simmer (sending only a few bubbles up at a time) and let it go for a few hours.
    • You want to be careful here, if you let it boil vigorously for too long the broth  can emulsify the oil and will have a bitter/tart flavor with a slick mouthfeel. It’s better to leave it under a simmer for a long time (even overnight) than to try to rush this step.OI000342.JPG
  • After you have extracted all of the flavor that you can, strain the stock through a flour sack towel.
  • You can process the hot broth at this point in a pressure canner at 11 psi (20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts).
    • I will often take the additional step of placing the broth into the fridge overnight to cool and letting the oils solidify then straining again the next day before canning.  You can also do this if you plan on packaging into ziplock baggies and freezing.

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