Few things bother me more than throwing out food. What could be more wasteful than letting perfectly good nutrition rot in the refrigerator when people are starving? Then there’s the money you spent on the food in the first place, gone without benefit. So we try to be really good about eating up our leftovers. We even bought a food-saver with last year’s Christmas money, to better extend the freezer life of our excess. In order to make leftovers more exciting I try to rework them, making hashes and salads instead of simply reheating last night’s dinner. All of these tricks are pretty good, and while we still have to throw out the occasional moldy tomato, we waste very little.
One of our biggest victories in the war against waste, however, is stock-making. Stock is a great recycler for a number of reasons. First, in making the stock you’re able to use bits and pieces of whatever kind it is that you wouldn’t eat under normal circumstances. For example, if you’re making veggie stock, in addition to the fresh vegetables that form your base you can dump in trimmings from previous meals. In making chicken stock this week, I threw in some of those trimmings, along with several carcasses and necks that I’d saved in the freezer. While you still need some fresh meat and vegetables (bones and trimmings alone will taste just like you’d imagine) this is an awesome way to get more mileage from your chicken dinner. The bones add a bit of collagen that makes your stock nice and thick, and the trimmings add flavor and color – onion skins are key to a beautiful rich yellow stock. Like so:
I like to use thighs for my fresh meat, because they’re cheap and more flavorful, since they’re dark meat. Throw them in the pot with a bay leaf, carrots, onions, and celery, cover the whole mess with water, and you’re good to go.
After the stock is done, it continues to help you recycle! The most obvious use for stock is soup, which in our house is the favored way of dispatching with vegetables that are still good but on the verge. It’s much easier to eat carrots, green beans, corn, onions, peas, and broccoli all in one meal when it’s in the soup pot. In our last creation we even tossed in a little left-over pancetta, which added a pleasant saltiness to the finished soup.
Stock is also the key ingredient in risotto, another canvas for “whatever we’ve got left in the fridge.” Even if I’m not in the mood for the full risotto treatment, throwing stock instead of water into the rice cooker adds a bit of depth to our meal.
Making stock at home is a bit time-consuming, but well worth the minimal effort. We’ve never wasted a drop!