Excellent Beef Stock

onion soup

Excellent Beef Stock can be used to create awesome meals such as French onion soup!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we are encouraging every cook (well, every non-vegan cook) to master the simple craft of making an excellent pot of beef stock. Quality beef stock sold in gourmet shops is delicious, but outrageously expensive. Those supermarket cans of stocks and broths? Well, read the label. Less expensive than their gourmet shop counterparts, those cans are over-salted and still overpriced. Some commercial food manufacturers are shameless enough to add caramel coloring to their beef stocks and broths. That’s right… the same artificial coloring added to soft drinks is added to beef stock!

Some recipes for beef stock call for the use of whole vegetables (i.e., a few carrots, or a whole onion). We think that’s just a little too precious. The fact is, you get the same flavor from vegetable scraps and peels, so why use up perfectly good vegetables making beef stock? We’re using peels (see below), and are sure you can find a good use for the peeled veggies themselves. ¬†ūüôā Let’s get started!

WIN_20160430_104540Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

3 pounds beef bones (ask the butcher at your local market – bones are always available)

Peel and outer layer of Continue reading

Six Meals from a $6 Turkey (Part 1 of 4)

picture292You will never find a less expensive turkey than you will in the month of November.  I used a supermarket coupon delivered right to my mailbox, and picked up a 12 pound turkey for $6.  Over the next four posts, we will make six entrees, each serving four people (with leftovers!), with this $6 turkey.

That’s $1 a night for a family, or 25 cents per person.¬†¬†Are you with me?

Today we’ll bake our turkey, divide the meat into four portions (freezing three portions), and we’ll¬†make a whole lot of turkey broth.¬† Don’t worry, this requires very little attention – you won’t be trapped in your kitchen all day.¬† On November 7th, we’ll make large quantities of three different soups, perfect for freezing or sharing with loved ones.¬† November¬†9th we’ll make an awesome turkey Stromboli for dinner, and also a few BBQ bread pockets to freeze for hot lunches later this winter.¬† November 11th we’ll¬†lighten things up with a savory, main dish¬†salad.

Let’s get started!

Ingredients for Today

1 thawed turkey, approximately 12 pounds

salt

pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions

Step 1) Make sure your turkey is not frozen.  Most supermarket turkeys are sold frozen, and take a few days to thaw in the refrigerator.  I let mine thaw in the fridge for 3 days.  Whatever you do, do NOT leave a frozen turkey at room temperature in an attempt to make it thaw faster.  This can make you sick.

Step 2) Realize that your turkey is simply an ingredient, and will be picked apart in short order.¬† Your turkey will not be starring in a live performance of a¬†Charles Dickens novel, so don’t get all stressed out and precious about it, OK?¬† Nobody cares if this turkey is perfectly browned, or perfectly shaped, or perfectly¬†carved.¬†¬†Nobody.¬† It just needs to¬†get done.

Step 3) ¬†Place your turkey on a large pan with sides.¬† An official roasting pan is great if you have one.¬† A jelly roll pan or other large pan will work fine, too.¬† Just make sure your pan has sides.¬† Make sure there is nothing weird inside of your turkey, like a plastic bag of gravy (not that I’ve, er, ever forgot to check).

Step 4) Brush your turkey all over with a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil.¬† This will help keep your turkey moist.¬† Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on your turkey.¬† This is as fancy as we need to be.¬† It’s an ingredient, remember?

Step 5) Place your turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven for 4 hours.¬† This is a bit longer than a thawed, 12 pound turkey should take, but I don’t like to take any risks with undercooked poultry.¬† If you have a meat thermometer, stick it in the meatiest part of your turkey, but not against a bone.¬† When your turkey is done, the temperature should be at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

picture293Step¬†6)¬†Using a carving knife, and then using your fingers, pull all of the meat off of your turkey.¬† Take your time – this isn’t difficult, but will take a little while.¬† Divide the turkey into four, quart size containers.¬† You can separate light meat from dark meat, or mix it all up, whichever you prefer.¬† Place three containers in your freezer, and picture294save one for soup day!

Step 7) Place your turkey carcass in the largest pot you have and cover with three gallons (12 quarts) of water.¬† If you don’t have a large enough pot, you can divide your turkey carcass approximately in half, and cover each half with 1 1/2 gallons (6 quarts) of water.¬† If you have any vegetable scraps in your freezer (onion peels, carrot ends, that sort of thing), add them to your pot.

Step 8)¬†Bring your pot to a boil, then reduce heat and cover.¬† Simmer for at least 8 hours…¬†the longer, the better!¬† While your broth is cooking, gather up a bunch of storage containers (I use quart size yogurt containers).¬† Also,¬†make room in your refrigerator and/or freezer.

Step 9)¬†Using a ladle, a sieve, and your patience, strain all of the broth into storage containers.¬† Refrigerate and/or freeze.¬† You’re done for today!

Planning Ahead

On¬†Soup Day (two days from now), we’re going to turn this broth and¬†one portion of turkey into three different soups.¬† You’ll need the following ingredients on hand:

1 large bunch of kale (or other green, if you prefer)

1 bag of carrots

1 bunch of celery

2 sweet potatoes

2 onions

1 can of cannellini beans

1 cup of flour

1/3 cup of milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

salt, pepper, baking powder, allspice, and salt-free seasoning blend

See you in two days!

Mushroom Risotto

picture150 (2)

This recipe ranks very high on my list of all-time favorite comfort foods.  Mushroom Risotto is a savory, slow recipe with lots of slicing and stirring, but is otherwise easy to prepare.  The fact that each serving is chock full of vitamins and minerals is an added bonus.  My suggestion?  Uncork a bottle of wine and meander through this recipe with a friend or significant other.  Cooking comfort food together is a great way to stay connected!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 cloves finely chopped garlic

picture1401 1/2 cups sliced crimini, baby bella, or white button mushrooms (your choice)

1 cup sliced shiitaki mushrooms

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

4 cups water

~~~

1 cup Arborio “risotto” rice (do not substitute another variety of rice)

1 cup sliced fresh green beans (or, substitute asparagus)

1 cup chopped fresh tomato

1 cup shredded muenster cheese

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.¬† Remove from heat, add dried porcini mushrooms, cover saucepan, and let sit for 5 minutes.¬† Then, use a slotted spoon to remove porcini mushrooms from the pot.¬† Slice the porcini mushrooms and set aside.¬† Return the pot of mushroom-infused water to a low simmer… we will use it as broth in a few minutes!

picture142Add olive oil, onions, and garlic to a large sauté pan.  Over low heat, sauté five minutes, until onions are partially translucent.  Add all of the mushrooms, and sauté five more minutes.

picture146Add Arborio rice.¬† Stir gently for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture feels quite dry.¬† This “toasts” the rice and helps to give risotto its distinct texture.

Add 1 cup of mushroom broth to the pan and stir until it is absorbed (maybe 2 minutes or so).  Add another 1 cup of mushroom broth and the beans to the pan.  Stir until the liquid is absorbed a second time.  It will take a bit longer, maybe 5 minutes.

picture147¬†Do you see the trend?¬† For the third time, add another 1 cup of mushroom broth to the pan.¬† Also add the tomatoes.¬† Continue stirring until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.¬† Each time takes a bit longer.¬† This addition may require 5 to 7 minutes to absorb.¬† Don’t forget to continue stirring, so the rice doesn’t stick!

picture149When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, taste a few grains of rice.¬† If they are crunchy, you may need to add a bit more water (1/2 cup, this time).¬† Be careful not to¬†add too much liquid or the rice will get mushy!¬† Think “al dente,” like pasta.¬† When your rice feels “al dente,” it’s done.

Remove from heat and gently stir in the cheese.¬† You can easily make this a vegan dish by eliminating the cheese, but I’ll be honest, without the melty muenster and parmesan, I don’t enjoy this dish quite as much.

Feel free to season with any combination of salt, pepper, or lemon zest.  Enjoy!