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Accidental Vegetable Stock?

I have discovered the secret to great tasting rice. This revelation originated from an unlikely source. I was preparing a slow cooker roast last week and decided to use half water and half chicken stock. You see, I have been playing around with making my own stock using the bones and leftovers from an oven roasted chicken. As I watch the giant chicken stock ice cube (I store my stock in containers in the freezer) melt into the crock pot I start to chop the potatoes, carrots, and onions. Suddenly I’m struck with a bright idea. Why not keep the carrot ends, onion peals, garlic skins and other scraps and try to make some kind of vegetable stock with them? The vegetables were pealed, chopped, and put into the roast to be forgotten for fourteen to sixteen hours, and I was left with a big beautiful pile of vegetable matter that in days past would have proceeded directly to into the trash. Only this time, they were destined for greater things.

This new cooking adventure started with the leftovers from some onions, carrots, and a red bell pepper. I added four cloves of rough chopped garlic, a stem of rosemary, some thyme, and two bay leaves for good measure. I put everything into a large stock pot and covered it with a good volume of cold water. This heap of scraps previously known as trash was covered and put on a burner over medium low heat to simmer. After thirty minutes I lifted the lid on the pot to check things out. My stock was happily bubbling and burping away, putting off a wonderful smell. About two hours later I took my stock pot off the stove and let it cool for a little while. Once cooled, I poured the stock through a strainer, and filled a few containers to be put into the freezer until some undetermined time in the future when I might use it for… something.

Jumping forward a week or so, I was getting ready to start a batch of gallo pinto. This is one of my favorite versions of beans and rice, common in Costa Rico and Nicaragua. Have no fear; I will be doing a separate post about this dish at some point. The first step to making gallo pinto is to cook up two cups of brown rice. As I’m measuring the water for my rice, inspiration strikes. “WAIT!” I yell. My wife responds from the living room “What are you talking about, I’m not doing anything.” After mourning the fact that she can’t read my mind I tell her “don’t mind me, just doing a little cooking.” My outburst resulted from the realization that this was the perfect time to use my vegetable stock. With glee, I thawed the stock and replaced the water with the aromatic amber result of my first venture into vegetable stock.

Forty five minuets later, with visions of yummy rice dancing through my head I removed the rice from the stove. To my delight, the stock had imparted an entirely new and wonderful flavor on the rice. All this fit perfectly into my plan to use this rice for gallo pinto, as this rice and beans dish can be a little bland if not spiced up properly.

The gallo pinto turned out wonderful. The rice cooked with vegetable stock added a layer of flavor to the dish that was missing all along. Now that I have made this discovery, I would miss the newfound flavor if it was gone.To think, I have improved one of my favorite dishes just by taking the extra time to boil some vegetable scraps. No fancy ingredients or expensive equipment needed, just a little experimentation. My discovery has led me to keep a large zip lock bag in the freezer, any time I chop and clean vegetables I contribute the leftovers to a future batch of stock. I am sure my next batch will taste a little different than the first, but I believe that’s part of the fun of cooking. I find I am happiest and end up with better tasting food when I throw a few things in a pot or pan and see how it turns out.

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