Friday, March 11, 2011

Vegetable Stock, Ribollita and Re-Thinking Chicken Stock

Vegetable stock is so easy to make,  you use all the scraps you would otherwise compost or throw away into something simple, satisfying and very versatile.  When I made Ribollita last week I needed to make stock, so I used all the onion skins, carrot peel and kale stems in my stock.  I made so much stock I was able to pack my freezer full with the left over.  I like to add a few cloves, a couple of whole hot dried red peppers and a small palm full of black peppercorns to my stock.  In addition I like to add the stems of what ever herb I might be using in addition to several sprigs of parsley.  Each vegetable stock is individual and should be made based on what you have in the fridge.

Much has been made in the press over the debate on whether or not we will be able to feed to world in the future with such a rapidly growing population, usually as an excuse to support the large AG companies who see this as a way of having a strangle hold on all agricultural output and maximizing profit.  Now, what does this have to do with vegetable stock?  Well one of the thing that I notice at restaurants here in the city is how often chicken stock is used to make a soup that would otherwise be vegetarian.  Chicken stock is ubiquitous, but one h as to stop and ask oneself where do all those chickens come from and have we always cooked like this?

The first question is easy, they come from polluting, energy consuming, torture factories that also  poison the animals they "grow".  The answer to the second question I don't really know the answer to, but I would think it probably is a result of some french culinary tradition and was based on a culture where people had chickens on their farms or friends farms or bought them at a market where they were raised on farms and then after eating them they would make a stock with the left over bits and bones.
Next time you order soup that isn't chicken noodle ask the waiter if the soup is made with chicken stock.  Just reducing this one simple thing could make a difference, reduce the demand of large scale poultry factories, therein reducing pollution and the gross amount of chemicals used to sustain such an unsustainable way of producing meat.

By all means the next time you buy a chicken at the market make a nice stock and freeze some for later.  Otherwise a good vegetable stock can do just as much to adding flavor and depth to your soups and do it without the factory, pollution or expense.

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