welcome to another instalment of back to basics!
when i was home over the holidays, my nona made me my one of my top 3 favourite dishes of all time – tortellini in brodo. the dish is like a warm hug; so filling and salty and full of textures and tastes from the silky clear broth to the chew of the little pockets of meat (aka goodness), and sharp pecorino sprinkled on top. though i love the little tortellini a looooot, the star of the show for me is the broth.
broth is like liquid gold – it’s used for everything from soups to risottos to gravy, and it’s something i always have in my fridge. there are a few different types of this liquid gold – broth, stock and bone broth. ready for a little lesson? andiamo!
the goal of broth is to use a combination of ingredients to create a light, flavourful liquid that can be used for soups, the bases for sauces or to cook grains, or served as is. it should have a full, clean flavour with no flavours outshining one another. broth is water simmered with vegetables (carrots, onion or leeks, celery), aromatics (such as peppercorns, bay leaves or parsley) and meat (with some bones, but mostly meat). it is cooked for a short period of time, usually 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, then strained and seasoned. it should keep as a liquid when chilled.
stock is made on the same basis as broth – water simmered with vegetables, aromatics and meat, but with the addition of animal bones (that can be roasted before). it is cooked for a longer period of time than broth, usually 4 to 6 hours. the goal of stock is to extract the collagen from the connective tissues of the bones. stock is not seasoned at the same stage as broth as stock’s end use is as an ingredient to deglaze a pan or as a base for such sauces or gravy (it can be used as a broth for soups but should be thinned with water). when chilled, good stock should have the texture and jiggle of jello – this is from collagen in the bones.
bone broth is a hybrid of broth and stock. the base is more stock-like, as it is usually made from roasted bones, but there can sometimes be some meat still attached. it is cooked for a long period of time, often more than 24 hours, and the goal is not only to extract the gelatin from the bones, but also to release the nutritious compounds and minerals such as collagen but also glucosamine, amino acids, electrolytes, calcium, and more). when making bone broth, ask your butcher for soup bones – they’ll provide you with the pieces such as the knuckles and neck, which have the perfect amount of cartilage. bone broth is good to be enjoyed on it’s own – it’s full of healthy minerals for your hair, skin and nails and promotes good gut health!
now that we know the basics, let’s talk about the ratios. i took the basics from my nona’s brodo recipe and added a few tweaks of my own (cause i can never help myself).
she uses 1 pound of chicken wings, 1 pound chicken legs, 1 small piece of beef shank, 1 celery rib, 1 onion, and 1 tomato. she covers the pot with water and lets it simmer for a an hour or so until it’s concentrated, then she seasons and strains.
i have a love for weird animal parts – the ones that are perfect for making a the stock mentioned above, and i also love having all that collagen and connective tissue in my stock to give it that body and a richer flavour. i used pork bones (cause they’re cheap!), and a few pieces of beef short rib, and added a carrot along with some peppercorns (i even through in a chicken back i had in the freezer the last time i made it – i love using up scraps so that nothing goes to waste!). the added benefit of this is having a delicious meal when it’s done simmering – the beef and pork are so tender and flavourful and just fall off the bone.
the great thing about making broth/stock/bone broth, is you don’t *really* need a recipe (unless of course you’re using it for something specific such as a seafood risotto). if you follow the basics above you should end up with some type of flavourful liquid, filled with nutrients and perfect for enhancing the flavours of your dishes! it’s an awesome, cozy sunday project that makes your house smell amazing.
here’s my recipe:
2 pounds pork bones
1/2 pound beef short ribs
1 celery stalk, chopped into thirds
1-2 carrots, chopped into thirds
1 onion, cut in half
1 teaspoon peppercorns
brown the meat and bones on all sides in a heavy bottomed 5.5L pot (not a necessary step, but i love the added level of flavour). toss in the rest of the ingredients and fill with water all the way to the top, so that all the ingredients are submerged.
bring to a boil then reduce to low. let simmer for 4-6 hours, skimming the top a few times during the process. strain, pressing some liquid from the meat and veg. pour into mason jars and let come to room temp before covering and storing in the fridge.