Hot Broth at Castle Leoch from Outlander
“I’m so sorry…that is, I mean, thank you for…but I…” I was babbling, backing away from him with my face flaming. He was a bit flushed, too, but not disconcerted. He reached for my hand and pulled me back. Careful not to touch me otherwise, he put a hand under my chin and forced my head up to face him.
“Ye need not be scairt of me,” he said softly. “Nor of anyone here, so long as I’m with ye.” He let go and turned to the fire.
“You need somethin’ hot, lass,” he said matter-of-factly, “and a bit to eat as well. Something in your belly will help more than anything.” I laughed shakily at his attempts to pour broth one-handed, and went to help. He was right; food did help. We sipped broth and ate bread in a companionable silence, sharing the growing comfort of warmth and fullness.
Finally, he stood up, picking up the fallen quilt from the floor. He dropped it back on the bed, and motioned me toward it. “Do ye sleep a bit, Claire. You’re worn out, and likely someone will want to talk wi’ ye before too long.”
This was a sinister reminder of my precarious position, but I was too exhausted to care much. I uttered no more than a pro forma protest at taking the bed; I had never seen anything so enticing. Jamie assured me that he could find a bed elsewhere. I fell headfirst into the pile of quilts and was asleep before he reached the door.
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander (Chapter 4)
Broth and bread. A quick and common meal for everyone from crofters to castle inhabitants throughout the Outlander world. Out here in the real world both were kitchen staples for hundreds of years, when everything was homemade, food supplies were often stretched, and nothing was ever wasted.
Especially the bones. Homemade stock is an inexpensive source of protein, nutrition and flavour that is undervalued and underused in today’s kitchens. And while packaged stock is occasionally essential for last-minute dinners, the heartiest and most delicious soups (as well as stews, sauces, crock pots and rice pilafs) start with their own pot of liquid gold.
Meat and poultry stock can be divided into 2 broad types: white and brown. A white stock is made from raw bones and has almost no colour, while a brown stock is made from bones roasted with tomato puree and is therefore much more richly coloured.
Each has its place. White stock is used in cream soups, light sauces and anywhere else where a neutral colour is desired (like that rice pilaf). Brown stock finds its home in clear soups, pan sauces and gravies, and adds a rich amber hue to any plate or bowl. Brown stock is also the one you want for companionable sipping.
I chose chicken stock because it’s the most common in today’s kitchen. You’ll find my brown beef stock recipe here. If veggie stock is more your scene, try this recipe — and check out this article for tips to get the most out of a vegetable stock.
Most people cite time as the number 1 reason they avoid making stock. I won’t argue that stock takes some time — about 3 hours from start to finish for this brown chicken stock — but if you’re going to be around the house anyway, why not try a pot full? Once it’s simmering, just turn on the exhaust fan and walk away. (Check back every 30 minutes or so.)
And if you have a really big pot, make a big batch. The broiler pan full of bones and veggies below made 7 quarts of stock.
That’s enough to keep us in soups and stews for the rest of the winter.
In addition to the bones, a stock gets it flavour from the mirepoix, which is an aromatic mix of onion, carrot and celery, as well as the bouquet garnii, a bundle of herbs and spices immersed in the simmering stock.
The one flavouring you never add to a stock is salt. NEVER SALT A STOCK. When you use your stock in a soup or sauce, or serve it, steaming in mugs for those coming out of the cold, is the time to season it with salt. And maybe a little freshly cracked black pepper too, eh?
The best stocks are crystal clear. Follow these few simple rules to prevent impurities such as blood and fat from making a cloudy mess:
- Start with cold water
- Trim all bones of excess skin, fat and meat
- Always keep a stock uncovered during cooking
- Keep the stock at a slow simmer
- Never stir a stock
- Skim the stock regularly
- When finished, ladle the stock through a strainer rather than pouring it straight from the pot. The stock at the very bottom is generally heavy with sediment. I usually give it to the dog.
- Degrease cold stock before reheating
I could say more about stock…heck, I could talk about food all day if you let me…if you’re interested, here’s one last article with more tips for making rich, delicious stock.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Yield: 2+ Quarts (2 Litres)
Homemade stock is superior to anything you can by at the store. Less salt, zero additives and hearty enough to fortify even the most weary time travelers.
- Chicken Bones, raw, trimmed of skin & fat – 2 lbs (1 kg)
- Onion, large dice – 1 Cup
- Celery, large dice – ½ Cup
- Carrot, large dice – ½ Cup
- Tomato Paste – 2 Tble
- Bouquet Garnii – 2 bay leaves, 6 parsley stems, 2 sprigs thyme, 6 peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 400˚.
Place the bones one layer deep in a pan, and roast, on the middle rack, until beginning to brown, approx. 30 minutes.
Turn the bones, then add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan and use a pastry brush to spread the tomato paste onto the bones and vegetables. Roast another 15 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown.
Meanwhile, tie all of the bouquet garnii ingredients into a square of cheesecloth, or enclose them in a tea ball.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer all of the bones and veggies (and a minimum of the fat) into the stockpot. Add enough cold water to cover the bones, then add ⅓ that amount again. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to a very slow simmer.
Skim the surface of the stock to remove impurities and fat. Add the bouquet garnii to the pot and continue at a slow simmer, uncovered for 2 hours. Skim and top up the water as needed.
Remove from the heat, strain and cool in a glass or metal container. Refrigerate overnight, then remove the hardened fat from the surface of the cold stock.
Use as a base for soups, sauces, gravies, etc. To serve as is, heat to boiling, then season with salt and pepper.
Store, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 8 weeks.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- I collect and freeze chicken bones (from whole birds that I cut up myself, wing tips, etc) until I have enough to make a big batch. Neck and back bones make a full bodied poultry stock.
- Chicken feet boost the gelatin content of a stock almost through the roof — the richest stock you’ve ever tasted — and are available at Asian markets.
- To use cooked poultry carcasses in this recipe, put the bones, mirepoix and tomato paste into the oven together for 15 minutes, then continue with recipe.
- To add even more flavour to your stock, use 1 or more of these optional umami-rich ingredients in your bouquet garnii: dried mushroom, dried chili, dried kombu (seaweed), sun-dried tomato, fennel seeds, garlic clove.
- For a quick lunch or light dinner, cook frozen wontons or dumplings in stock, season (I like a little soy sauce and chili oil), garnish with chopped green onions and serve.
- You may have noticed the quick switch from broth to stock. In culinary terms, there is a difference; while stock is made from bones, broth is generally made by simmering meat in stock (or water). In fact, poaching a chicken breast in homemade chicken stock is a delicious, low-fat preparation that also leaves you with a pot full of steaming broth to enjoy on the side (or the next day).