Most people like myself, who first learned to cook from their parent(s), or from cookbooks, might not have learned the “correct” way to slice or dice an onion. Yet, although this may mean that the pieces of onion are not exactly uniform, it does not affect the flavour (or even the appearance in most cases) of finished dishes. The few basic master techniques in cooking however – those that use heat to prepare food, such as grilling, roasting, sautéing, frying – are a little different, because there’s not much visual about them.
Such cooking techniques (grilling, roasting, sautéing, frying) cannot be learned in an instant and need to come with good instructions. You must learn to judge the correct level of heat on your particular stove. You must learn to be ready at the right moment. Likewise with an oven, preheating is a common practice and a good one if you want to put a nice crust on the food you’re cooking. In most cases of roasting for example, it is done at a high heat of 400°F or higher, and at its best, crisps up the exterior of foods, like the vegetables used in today’s recipe, without much danger of burning, while cooking the interior relatively slowly and avoiding overcooking.
This is how I first learned to fry the best tasting chicken from my mom at a very young age living in Jamaica. A traditional Sunday dinner was rice and peas made with red kidney beans and fresh coconut milk, and fried chicken. To cook the chicken (which were free range, organically fed and plucked from a nearby backyard), my mom removed and saved the fat and most of the skin before seasoning it with fresh herbs like scallion, thyme, scotch bonnet, pimento, and other kitchen staples. Once the chicken was marinated well and ready to cook, my mom then preheated the frying pan on high heat. The saved fat and skin from the chicken was then fried to extract bubbling oil that would be used for frying.
Homemade stocks remind me of this type of cooking taught to me by my mom because of the transference of flavour. Stock is a liquid in which solids have been cooked and then strained out, with the goal of transferring the flavour from the solids to the liquid. Then it is used to enhance ready-to-serve soup broths, as well as for sauces and other recipes.
Dried mushrooms, or the stems of fresh mushrooms. The distinctive flavour of mushrooms is almost always a fine addition.
Stock need not be expensive. The best tasting, most useful stock can be made from ingredients you might otherwise have thrown away. You can start with scraps of vegetables, bearing in mind that trimmings from strong vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, green pepper, etc., will lend a distinct flavour to the stock, one that you might not always want.
Nutrient-dense, flavourful, homemade vegetable stock!
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips, celery, garlic, shallots in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with the olive oil.
Roast for approximately 45 minutes until vegetables are nicely browned. Shaking the pan occasionally and turn the ingredients once or twice.
Use a slotted spoon to scoop all the ingredients into a stockpot; add the remaining ingredients and the 8 cups of water. Turn the heat to high.
Place the roasting pan over a burner set to high. Add 2 to 4 cups of water, depending on the depth of the pan. Bring the water to a boil, scraping off any bits of food stuck to the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour this mixture into the stockpot along with any remaining water not used for deglazing.
Bring the contents of the stockpot to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 45 minutes. Cook until the vegetables are very soft and the stock is highly flavoured.
Remove the stock from the heat and strain, pressing the vegetables to extract all their juices. Taste and add salt if necessary.
Tips for Serving:
Pour into storage containers for the fridge or freezer. This stock can be refrigerated for 4 – 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Refrigerate, then skim any hardened fat from the surface if you like.