I love fall. More, I love cooking in fall. It feels like my element. I can roast poultry and vegetables and make hot bean soups. I think I'm able to throw together some chop for a salad fairly well, but it's not the same as having a steaming bowl or plate of warm waiting for you at the table.

On that note, I've branched out in the world of stocks; I made a seafood stock. I'm not going to give you the recipe for it. Stock recipes, to my mind, are counter-productive. For one thing, you can throw just about anything in a stock pot and it fits the bill, including apple or pear peels if you were feeling ambitious enough. What I will talk about are some basic ingredients for a stock and what you might desire to get the general flavor. You should always, however, branch out. I threw a whack of diced fennel into my seafood stock, for instance, because it had tasted damn good with the mussels I'd eaten originally. Keep in mind, too, that stocks and broths are not just for soups! Add them to rice, a casserole or use to poach instead of water.

A note--I will not mention bay leaves, salt or pepper below. They should probably be added to all of them. (A note on pepper, though: Add whole peppercorns rather than cracked pepper or ground pepper. Unless you want to strain your stock with a coffee filter, too much of that pepper will stay behind.)


A brief thought on how. Old-school stock making is slightly more time-consuming when you have to dip and scoop foam off the top of the pot all the time. If you have a slow cooker you can literally dump ingredients and forget about them forever. Whatever you're cooking will only get better and if you want to get rid of fats from meat stocks, skim the fat off the top once it's cold and solid, if you must. Otherwise, fats provide a nice protective layer over the rest of your stock.


I would encourage you to save all your vegetable scraps for vegetable stock. Not even just for vegetable--save it all for any stock! I recently purchased a whole chicken and after eating the breasts, the bones went in the pot and the dark meat was torn up to go into pot pies. Everything but the skin off the back half of the chicken was used and reused--feels good! Onion and garlic skins and everything can be saved.

Now, I have heard people classify vegetable stocks into light and dark...

(Which, by the way, I should be calling broths. Small tidbit that I wasn't aware of until last year: Stocks are the ones that go gelatinous when they're cold. Their jello-ness comes from the fact that there was bones or joints or some other such in the pot. If you haven't been able to get to the gelatinous stage, some people suggest cracking small bones open or adding chickens' feet to the pot. Personally I couldn't be bothered and mine always come out fine. Stocks supposedly contain more nutrition, though I fail to see how pure vegetable stocks (sorry, 'broths') would not be nutritious seeing as you've boiled up a bunch of veggies. Anywho. I'm no scientist, I suppose. Broths are the ones that are lighter, thinner, free of gelatin and supposedly less nutritious. I might be missing some definitive markers in here, but that's the gist of it.)

Light stocks might include things such as onions, garlic, bits of fruit, carrots, mushrooms, celery, etc.

Dark stocks might include heavier vegetables such as portabellos, turnips, etc. Dark stocks would also benefit from your roasting the vegetables before you boil them to death. Enriches the whole thing.

One thing to avoid may be cabbages. I've never tried them myself as I've heard they have a rather overwhelming flavor and will take over a stock if given the chance. Personally? Unless I'm trying to recreate a vegetarian stock to sub for a beef stock as in when I try to make my sister French Onion Soup, I just mash it all together, roasted or not, 'dark' and 'light', and let it simmer a good long time. Or, now that I have my slow cooker, let it slow cook overnight, for instance.


I'm less variable with chicken stocks. Chicken is a primary, of course. Carrots, celery, onion, garlic. I'm actually a big fan of leeks rather than traditional onions in chicken stock. Have an idea for a spicy soup eventually? Throw in some whole dried chilies. Also, don't get rid of the "garbage" pieces! For instance, when I spatchcock a chicken, I save that backbone for the stock pot.


Being that we almost never make red meat in this house, it's rather more difficult to tell you what to put in a beef stock. I would probably treat it the same way I treat pork stock. If I'm making pulled pork, I'll put the roast in the slow cooker, slice up an onion in large rings to dump over it and cover it all with water. Very basic, but a beautiful, rich stock at the end. Likewise, I've boiled hamhocks into times unknown with awesome results. Perhaps for a Split Pea Soup?


I'd never tried to make a seafood stock before. But after making two pounds of mussels it seemed to me a rather damn shame to just toss out all the scraps. In this case, my scraps were the emptied shells (a few with bits of meat still in there) and a few mussels that had been broken or already dead and open or what have you. I've been dreaming of a couple chowders I'd like to make and it seemed stupid to dump chicken stock into a chowder when I had all the fixings for a good seafood base. A caveat about using mussels, however: make sure your mussels (particularly the broken ones) are very, very clean. You may have to strain this one through a coffee filter anyway as it's rather difficult to be sure you've gotten all the grit out of a broken mussel. I had rope-cultivated mussels which were very clean to begin with so I was relatively safe. I've also done this with uncooked shrimp tails and fish scraps if I've trimmed down a fillet or some such.

I don't think you'll see many recipes for seafood broths anyway, but I threw all the mussels in there, onion, that fennel bulb, a few grape tomatoes that had nearly spoiled, garlic, some carrot tops... A lot of the usual basics for a stock, plus some thyme and parsley. Always add a spice you find familiar to the family of flavors you're building if you have it. Preferably whole, so you have less mishegas to strain out.

One last tip: In the case of stocks/broths I've done where the smell isn't quite right? Not deep or rich enough? I'll actually use that liquid as part of the covering liquid for another batch of broth/stock with, say, more chicken if they previous one hadn't quite smelled chicken-y enough. If the smell doesn't come through, the taste won't come through.

Any secret ingredients you really love in a stock?