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When water is as good or better than using stock


heidih
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I find it curious that Ruhlman has changed his mind so completely. Three books ago, he extolled veal stock as the best thing to hit a home kitchen:

It’s the non-pro who stands to gain the most from veal stock, the home cook. Taking this one item, veal stock, and adding it to your kitchen is like taking the four-cylinder engine of your Mitsubishi and turbo charging it; with the addition of a turbo, the engine becomes not only faster but more fuel efficient. Veal stock, same thing -- it not only makes your food taste better by miles, it makes you more efficient in your efforts at creating delicious food.

and

You can do this [make a pan sauce] with chicken stock -- you can do this with water, for that matter -- but it’s not the same.

There's nothing like veal stock. It's a marvel.

In his latest book, veal stock doesn't even make the top 20. I feel sorry for all his readers who ran out back then and spent a fortune on veal bones to make stock, when it's now water that's the marvel.

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The Ruhlman debate seems to be moving into black or white territory. Water or stock? Seems like an all or nothing question. What is the role of vegetable nage in this debate? I note that Lisa Shock above "doubled up on the herbs" in the water that she used in her favoured risotto. That means she did not use water but rather a type of nage, which adds flavour and complexity without the brute force of a stock.

Personally unless I want a very heavy result, I seldom use a beef stock. My chicken stock is probably more diluted than most of you use and I use veal demi-glace as a flavour enhancer by adding a teaspoon or so to sauces. All things are not better with heavy stocks because subtle flavours can be overwhelmed.

It is also of interest that many chefs now make stocks out of single ingredients, omitting carrots, celery, etc. They are trying for a more pure and delicate taste.

Are most things better with flavoured water such as stocks, remouillage, nage, broths, herb infusions, etc? For the most part I'd say yes because a particular flavour note or level of complexity is added. Are some things better with water? As we've seen above, yes they are but with the caveat that water with herbs, vegetables, etc moves us away from the water into the flavoured water sphere.

Rather than settling on black or white, I'd normally suggest a shade of grey is more appropriate. But that wonderful phrase has now been appropriated in meaning, alas.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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That. And, too, if you're using, say, 500mL liquid, why not use 250mL stock and 250mL water rather than go all out on the water? No one is going to shoot you for using heavily diluted stock in place of neat water.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I almost never use plain water in my soups or stews, but I use a variety of stocks depending on the recipe. For light spring vegetable soups, I might prepare a simple stock with corn cobs & zucchini. For a curried vegetable soup, I might pressure cook some tamarind pods and whole spices that will be refreshed in the final soup. And I was quite surprised to realize that split pea soup really is just FINE with water alone. The peas and ham hocks make magic without a starting stock.

It definitely gets depressing if everything tastes the same, even if the same is the best turkey stock from your 4 carcass thanksgiving score!

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That. And, too, if you're using, say, 500mL liquid, why not use 250mL stock and 250mL water rather than go all out on the water? No one is going to shoot you for using heavily diluted stock in place of neat water.

I disagree, I think a weak stock is worse than no stock. You get all the muddled, samey flavors you would get from a full on stock without any of the rich, depth of body.

In my mind, there's an optimal amount of stock to add to a dish and you should either add as close to that amount as possible or none at all, but not anything in the middle. Treat it like any other seasoning.

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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One person's "muddled samey flavours" apparently is another person's canvas on which to create a fully integrated whole. "Richness and depth of body" sounds suspiciously like umami to me. There are many ways to add this without starting off with full-blown stock. One of my favourites is powdered porcini mushrooms.

If you feel you want to concentrate a flavour, strain out the elements that would be harmed by boiling and reduce the sauce/broth. This, by the way, is adjusting the amount of water in the product. If it gets too concentrated, add water to dilute. It's still flavoured water no matter which way you look at it.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I'm following this thread with interest. When called on to make something for a pot luck with my husband's family I often just rule out soup. Several members are strict vegetarians and I admit to being depedent upon stock--strong or light, depending on what I'm doing--for the soups I make. I'm not often thrilled with the vegetarian soups made by others; often I find restaurants or individuals compensate for lack of flavor by using too much pepper or too many spices and herbs. Another issue is that one of the family members needs to avoid heavy use of tomatoes, so that limits the ingredients further. And truthfully I just can't stand pureed soups made with pumpkin or winter squash, which often seems to be a vegetarian option.

The idea of using just one vegetable to flavor a soup is too subtle for this crowd. They need a heartier soup with a variety of ingredients. Are there some good guidelines or hints for making a basic vegetable stock that will make for a bit more depth?

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Since I'm vegetarian, I often use water instead of stock a lot when cooking, especially in Chinese recipes where there are usually a lot of other umami seasonings and just a tablespoon or two of stock called for in the recipe. Or, I'll make a quick stock of some sort, or, if I'm really lazy, add a little bit of vegetarian "chicken" powder (kelp / mushroom based, so basically MSG). For Asian style cooking, you can make a quick stock with kelp (kombu), (soy)bean sprouts, maybe some shitake mushroom or carrot, and maybe a bit of green onion white. This won't have a lot of flavor on its own, but will add a savory element. For Western style cooking, you can make a court stock based on the ingredients below.

The idea of using just one vegetable to flavor a soup is too subtle for this crowd. They need a heartier soup with a variety of ingredients. Are there some good guidelines or hints for making a basic vegetable stock that will make for a bit more depth?

I like making a roasted vegetable stock based on the recipe in the yellow "Gourmet" cookbook - it's easily available online. Or, for cases where a lighter taste is wanted, just a mix of leek, carrot, bay leaf, stewed tomatoes, thyme sprig, black peppercorns, garlic (sweat the veg before adding water). Sometimes a little bit of bean in the stock is nice too (cook soaked white beans, for example), for body and flavor. I like to make a huge batch of stock, strain and reduce it down, and then freeze into ice cubes - if memory serves, I reduced it down enough where a 1x1 ice cube will be about a quart when diluted back to normal strength. Tomatoes can be left out in either case, though I do think they add a nice brightness as well as savory flavors (they can make straining a bit of a pain, though).

Some of the commercial ones in aseptic packaging (esp. Kitchen Basics roasted vegetable stock, and, to a lesser extent, Imagine Food's "no-chicken stock") are pretty good too. To me, these are way better than the versions of "Better than Boullion" I've tried (though some people swear by it). To me, the latter has too much of a "boullion cube" type flavor. If I'm making a recipe like risotto that's super dependent on a good stock, I'll try to make it myself, but for everyday cooking, esp. in soups or something, the packaged broths can be convenient, especially if you're not cooking vegetarian all the time and just need it for a particular meal.

Edited by Will (log)
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Are there some good guidelines or hints for making a basic vegetable stock that will make for a bit more depth?

Run, don't walk, to your local bookstore or library or otherwise beg, borrow or steal a copy of the Greens Cookbook (the original, not the followups). It has a magnificent section on vegetable stocks, with a grand selection of vegetable stock recipes for various uses, guidelines on the use of various vegetables in stocks, and suggestions for building specific stocks for specific recipes. I prepare their Summer Vegetable Stock in bulk and can 6-8 quarts of it once or twice a year, as a nice base for many recipes, as versatile as my poultry stock. But still there are plenty of recipes where I prepare a one-off vegetable stock just for that dish.

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If you want heavier mouth feel to your soups, try some vegetarian umami building tricks. Sautée some star anise in with the onion. Use mushrooms plentifully, both roasted and dried. Fermented tofu of various types can add another dimension: soy sauce and various types of miso are examples. Try using spices such as toasted ground cumin or coriander seeds. In Australia we might use Vegemite as a flavour enhancer. The Spanish used smoked paprika. If your family eat milk based products, try Parmesan. Various forms of seaweed (eg. Kombu) can also be used.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Are there some good guidelines or hints for making a basic vegetable stock that will make for a bit more depth?

Run, don't walk, to your local bookstore or library or otherwise beg, borrow or steal a copy of the Greens Cookbook (the original, not the followups). It has a magnificent section on vegetable stocks, with a grand selection of vegetable stock recipes for various uses, guidelines on the use of various vegetables in stocks, and suggestions for building specific stocks for specific recipes. I prepare their Summer Vegetable Stock in bulk and can 6-8 quarts of it once or twice a year, as a nice base for many recipes, as versatile as my poultry stock. But still there are plenty of recipes where I prepare a one-off vegetable stock just for that dish.

YES !!!!! I was given a copy of this book eons ago. And since I am most vehemently NOT a vegetarian, never cooked from it. A couple of years ago, when I joined a CSA, and was faced with a whole bunch of veggies I'd never eaten, let alone cooked with, before, I opened it up to see what I could see.

My favorite is a winter squash soup, seasoned with mint and red chiles. The base stock is made from the seeds, "strings" and peel of the squash (and probably some spices/herbs/aromatics) and is so deep and amazing, I could drink just that. You will be blown away by the complexity of the stocks in this book. The copyright date is 1987.

Edited by Pierogi (log)

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

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My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Too, Heston Blumenthal's most recent book, at Home, has three different vegetarian stocks--a standard (but pressure cooked) vegetable stock, a mushroom stock and a Marmite consomme.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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  • 5 months later...

For me its water almost all the way. I rarely use stock for anything - just stock-based soups (ie chicken noodle) and the very ocassional risotto. Purchased stock isn't all that great, and homemade stock takes time, effort and money. Like others i went through a phase of using stock for everything, but ... the most delicious and clean-flavoured soups I make are with just vegetables, herbs and water. Rice cooked in water is always preferable to stock (unless it's hainanese chicken rice) and potato should taste of potato.

I will make stock from a roast chicken carcass and use it in a gravy or chicken soup, and quite happily use meat trimming as the basis of a sauce, but unless it's a very special and particular recipe, stock ain't stocked in my place.

And having read the different variations on risotto using mostly water, I'm keen to try those too!

it depends on mood and whim, and what I'm making. (SobaAddict70)

sometimes I will use plain water for soup (for example, sopa de ajo), sometimes Evian or Poland Spring in a pot of lentils and vegetables.

if I want a "clean" or "neutral" taste, I am more likely to use water instead of stock.

I tend to agree more with SobaAddict70.

I use stock for many of my soups, especially things like "quick soups" and "wonton-type soups" etc, augmenting them with various ingredients (e.g. I sometimes simmer chicken stock w/ dried anchovies &etc to make wonton soup) - but use just plain water when preparing various soups from scratch especially when I want that "Ching Mei Tou" [Cantonese - "clean" or "pure" taste]. Still, "Ching Mei Tou" can be achieved with stock. It helps if one resists adding everything but the kitchen sink into the soup. (I know someone who throws all sorts of stuff into her soups, after starting from the "basic" composition, and like it - I found her descriptions of them unsettling at times.)

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I don't know how I missed this topic when it first came up. My favorite example of choosing water is Julia Child's Cream of Leek and Potato soup. In the text proceeding the recipe she made the case for the flavor of the leeks coming through much better if you used water instead of stock. Having then made the recipe with water I agree. There is a delicate harmony of flavors in the resulting soup.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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I'm following this thread with interest. When called on to make something for a pot luck with my husband's family I often just rule out soup. Several members are strict vegetarians and I admit to being depedent upon stock--strong or light, depending on what I'm doing--for the soups I make. I'm not often thrilled with the vegetarian soups made by others; often I find restaurants or individuals compensate for lack of flavor by using too much pepper or too many spices and herbs. Another issue is that one of the family members needs to avoid heavy use of tomatoes, so that limits the ingredients further. And truthfully I just can't stand pureed soups made with pumpkin or winter squash, which often seems to be a vegetarian option.

The idea of using just one vegetable to flavor a soup is too subtle for this crowd. They need a heartier soup with a variety of ingredients. Are there some good guidelines or hints for making a basic vegetable stock that will make for a bit more depth?

hi Katie. you might find Elise's recipe for vegetable stock helpful: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_vegetable_stock/

if you're using celery, consider also using the leaves. they add a subtle herbal flavor that enhances almost any dish where celery appears in. you don't need much -- a tablespoon or two of chopped leaves is sufficient.

there are plenty of winter vegetarian soups that don't use pureed squash or pumpkin as a main ingredient. below are links to two I did recently.

Minestrone Invernale (winter minestrone) -- http://kitchenseasons.com/2012/12/26/minestrone-invernale/ . Although squash does appear as an ingredient, you can omit it and the soup will be fine.

Pasta e Ceci (pasta and chickpeas) -- http://kitchenseasons.com/2013/02/06/pasta-e-ceci/ . Btw, this recipe is intentionally "open-ended", meaning that precise quantities aren't provided.

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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I was thinking that probably cook with water will preserve the original freshness and taste of some ingredients. Also, it might help us to reduce the salt taken into body since we can have better control of the salt added. Anyway, this is just my personal thinking. :biggrin:

Good food is a lifestyle, and it's all about food and recipes.

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  • 3 weeks later...

JAZ Says"I find it curious that Ruhlman has changed his mind so completely. Three books ago, he extolled veal stock as the best thing to hit a home kitchen"

I do whole heartly agree that water in many, if not most , may be the best diluteant, however, the veal stock that I started making from Rhulman's recipe in Elements was indeed a revelation. Veal stock adds a mouth feel rather than a taste.

I buy all the rest of the water vs. taste arguments. I do not accept the use of,no water but use stock. Really. use what ever you want but many or even most times, water does it.

Edited by RobertCollins (log)

Robert

Seattle

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In my own personal experience the only time i use water over stock is soups that can tend to be overly salty when using additional stocks or bases. For example ham and cabbage soup or ham and string bean soup. I debone the ham and cut the sections into chunks that i only boil in water for 15 minutes. I then remove the chunks and boil the bone for 4+ hours to release all its flavor. I then chop the ham into small pieces and add to the pot 15 minutes prior to serving. There is soo much flavor and salt in the ham that adding a ham stock would be over kill.

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At one time I always used stock of some sort when making soup. Recently I've started reducing the amount of stock I use, and using a greater proportion of water in my soups. I sometimes thin chicken stock with water when making chicken soup, and that allows the actual chicken and vegetables to shine a little more brightly. There are some recipes that I recently came across that suggest using water instead of stock altogether.

So, when do you use water, when do you use stock or a "thin" stock? Have you found that certain recipes that call for stock give better, or more satisfactory, results with water or a lesser proportion of stock? Thanks!

....Shel

 ... Shel


 

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I've been moving to water instead of stock for some soups for a while, and often I'll use a very "thin" stock for a subtle background note. I generally like the results. However, sometimes I find that water from the tap has an off taste ... maybe you've experienced that as well ... chemicals from water treatment, old pipes are a couple of issues that detract from the taste of pure, clean water. If you've experienced these problems, how do you deal with it? Ignore it? Bottled water? Filtering? What kind of filter?

.... Shel

Edited by Shel_B (log)

 ... Shel


 

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I'm following this thread with interest. When called on to make something for a pot luck with my husband's family I often just rule out soup. Several members are strict vegetarians and I admit to being depedent upon stock--strong or light, depending on what I'm doing--for the soups I make. I'm not often thrilled with the vegetarian soups made by others; often I find restaurants or individuals compensate for lack of flavor by using too much pepper or too many spices and herbs. Another issue is that one of the family members needs to avoid heavy use of tomatoes, so that limits the ingredients further. And truthfully I just can't stand pureed soups made with pumpkin or winter squash, which often seems to be a vegetarian option.

The idea of using just one vegetable to flavor a soup is too subtle for this crowd. They need a heartier soup with a variety of ingredients. Are there some good guidelines or hints for making a basic vegetable stock that will make for a bit more depth?

hi Katie. you might find Elise's recipe for vegetable stock helpful: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_vegetable_stock/

if you're using celery, consider also using the leaves. they add a subtle herbal flavor that enhances almost any dish where celery appears in. you don't need much -- a tablespoon or two of chopped leaves is sufficient.

there are plenty of winter vegetarian soups that don't use pureed squash or pumpkin as a main ingredient. below are links to two I did recently.

Minestrone Invernale (winter minestrone) -- http://kitchenseasons.com/2012/12/26/minestrone-invernale/ . Although squash does appear as an ingredient, you can omit it and the soup will be fine.

Pasta e Ceci (pasta and chickpeas) -- http://kitchenseasons.com/2013/02/06/pasta-e-ceci/ . Btw, this recipe is intentionally "open-ended", meaning that precise quantities aren't provided.

Regarding using celery - try using Chinese celery instead of Western celery. It's stronger and more assertive in taste.

------

On a more general note (and after reading yet more recent posts on how many folks (in the USA, anyway) including some on eG seek out intense, deep, complex flavors etc and find a lot of food of various traditions or elsewhere lacking in flavor [including classic Cantonese ;-) ] I wonder about the taste preferences and palates and "taste-bud sensitivities" or "taste-bud calibrations" [so to speak] of folks in a general sense and about the genetic phenotypes (if any) or learned acculturations (if any) involved... For example, one notes that even something like salt sensitivity and "salt requirement" (or sugar) (etc) is at least partially "learned" and differs from many Mid-Western areas and North-East areas in the US; and folks who relocate from one of these areas to the other have been known to "alter" their salt (or sugar) sensitivity and preference over time.

Just thinking out loud.

(...and we are not even talking about chiliheads...)

(...or the related question of why many - but certainly not all - Caucasians seem to greatly prefer Szechuanese food over Cantonese food, even pronouncing the latter "tasteless"...)

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I've been moving to water instead of stock for some soups for a while, and often I'll use a very "thin" stock for a subtle background note. I generally like the results. However, sometimes I find that water from the tap has an off taste ... maybe you've experienced that as well ... chemicals from water treatment, old pipes are a couple of issues that detract from the taste of pure, clean water. If you've experienced these problems, how do you deal with it? Ignore it? Bottled water? Filtering? What kind of filter?

.... Shel

In Sydney I sometimes used the brita jug for cooking water but didn't notice a massive difference. Where I am now everyone swears by rainwater to the point that many take jugs from home to fill the kettle at work with so I use rainwater for cooking (but still put it through the brita for fridge storage). I have noticed a taste improvement in the rice especially when using the rainwater - enough that I'm going out to take it directly from the tank at the moment because I broke the tap in the kitchen!

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