Thursday, August 20, 2009

The lovely bones

No, not the novel or the movie which is supposed to come out based on the book, this post is an ode to homemade beef broth.
It was a quest, a mission, a crusade Emily and I embarked on while she was visiting from the far away north. I had just recently finished listening to the audio version of Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A year of Food Life " and was inspired to try and put my money where my mouth is (no pun intended) in supporting my local farmers.
On a trip to the Brooksville Farmers Market the Saturday before Emily arrived, William and I noticed a sign for Circle H Meat Masters, a small butcher shop claiming to sell locally grown meat. We followed the directions to the market but unfortunately, it was closed.

Emily and I are old hands at chicken stock so she was as exited as I was to try and make our own from beef, but first we had to get our hands on some of those bones. After a couple of days of phone tag, we finally ran Mark Herbert, the owner of the butcher shop, to earth and he supplied us with a bag of meaty bones for $5. A real bargain compared to what they want for a few anemic looking ones at the grocery store, that is, if they even have them.

We decided the best test of our labor would be a recipe where the quality of the broth would make or break the dish and came up French onion soup. While we were at it, we decided to make bread for croutons from the beautiful semolina flour Emily brought me from a farm market in Pennsylvania.
The result was the best onion soup I have ever eaten. Emily and I practically arm wrestled over the last few spoonfuls of the leftovers.

I used the remaining broth to make Pasta Fagioli one night and shredded beef enchiladas another.

Beef Stock

5 lbs. meaty beef bones

3 or 4 very large onions

4 large carrots

4 stalks celery

1 large bunch parsley

1 head garlic, whole

4 tablespoons peppercorns

2 teaspoons thyme

A few bay leaves

2 to 3 tablespoons beef base

Quarter the onions and arrange them in the bottom of a very large stock pot. Add the carrots, celery (keep the leaves), parsley and next four ingredients and fill the pot with water, about two gallons.

Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least four hours, probably closer to five, until heavily fragrant and the liquid has reduced to about half of what is at the beginning.

Strain the liquid, discard the bones and vegetables, and stir in the beef base, mixing thoroughly.

Makes about a gallon of stock.

French Onion Soup

4 lbs. sweet onions, chopped

1 stick (8 TBs) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 or 3 bay leaves

2/3 cup sherry

8 cups beef stock

1 cube beef bouillon

black pepper

Gruyere or provolone

1/2 loaf semolina bread, cut into large chunks and toasted in a 350 degree oven

Heat the butter on high in a three or four-quart soup pot and add the onions,stirring frequently for at least 20 minutes, until they are deeply caramelized, taking care not to burn them.

With the heat still on high, add about half of the sherry and stir the onions some more, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Add the flour and incorporate until it's dissolved, then add the beef stock, thyme, bay leaves, the rest of the sherry and a generous amount of black pepper and simmer for 30minutes or so, until the onions have absorbed some of the liquid and and it has thickened. Discard the bay leaves, add the bouillon cube. To serve, ladle soup into oven-proof bowls, top with croutons and cheese and bake until cheese in melted.

Semolina Bread

Sponge - 2 cups warm water

2 packages active dry yeast (1-1/2 tablespoons)

3 cups semolina flour

Dough - 3 tablespoons sugar or malt syrup

3 tablespoons shortening or olive oil

2 to 3 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

Cornmeal, for dusting baking sheet
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)


Sponge - In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to soften. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cover and let stand in a warm spot until doubled in volume (30 to 45 minutes).

Dough - Stir down the sponge, then add the sugar, shortening, 2 cups of the flour, and the salt. Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour 14 cup at a time if the dough is sticky. Continue kneading vigorously until the dough feels smooth and elastic (10 to 12 minutes). The dough should push back when pressed down.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in volume (35 to 45 minutes). Punch down, cut in half, shape into rounds, and cover. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Shaping - Form into 2 Italian-shaped loaves about 18 inches long. Place the loaves on a baking sheet that has been dusted with cornmeal. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise until doubled in size (45 to 60 minutes).

Brush the tops with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. When the bread has proofed, cut 3 diagonal slashes with a sharp knife or razor blade. Hold the knife at an angle to the bread and try to cut inside and underneath the crust. This will cause the bread to break open, or bloom, while baking and form a thick, crunchy crust.

Baking - Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake with steam until the loves are browned and emit a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom with your fingertips (35 to 45 minutes). If baking on an oven stone or tiles, the bread can be removed from the baking pans for the last 10 minutes to firm up the crust.

Yield: Makes 2 large loaves

Quiche Lorraine

Filling - 1 lb thick sliced bacon

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup whole milk

6 ounces of shredded Gruyere cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

4 extra large or jumbo eggs

black pepper

dash of cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Pie crust - 2 level cups all-purpose flour

1 level teaspoon salt

3/4 level cup all-vegetable shortening

5 tablespoons cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter until it is blended into pea-sized chunks. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time stirring with a fork until a rough ball is formed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and press it into a round disk. Let the dough rest for at least 10 minutes them roll out the dough on a floured counter.

Place in a 9 inch, deep dish pie plate and cut the excess dough from the edges and flute the rim of the crust by pinching the dough with your fingers.

Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling.

Cook the bacon and drain thoroughly then cut into one inch pieces.

Preheat the oven to 450.

Whip the eggs with the salt, cayenne, nutmeg and black pepper.

Scald the milk then whisk slowly into the eggs.

Sprinkle layers of cheese and bacon into the pie shell and pour the egg mixture over all. bake for 15 minutes then lower the oven to 350 and continue baking for another 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.

1 comment:

Emily said...

You know the soup was good when even Dad went back for a second bowl.

I miss you mama. Cooking isn't as fun if you're doing it alone.