According my news feed New York City’s latest health trend is a steaming cup of bone broth. For the stylish and sophisticated, purchased from the hip and happening Brodo, a take-out window attached to Marco Canora’s popular Hearth restaurant. Simply but cleverly marketed as “broth. the world’s first comfort food.” Co-incidentally, bone broth also happens to be receiving popular coverage as a staple du jour of the upwardly trending paleo lifestyle diet. Credited as a delicious and nutritious powerhouse packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin. Each element widely acknowledged to be an essential building block for a healthy, well functioning digestive system.
What’s old is suddenly new again. Indeed as long ago as mid eighteenth century France, inn keepers would offer bowls of broth known as restoratifs to travelers stopping at their establishments at night. Happily, this magical cure all elixir is simply stock made from roasted animal bones and simmered in a pot or slow cooker for a long time. Something that can cheaply and easily be made at home and ironically never fails to transport me back to my own childhood. In our house, each weekend, there was always a big stockpot of beef or chicken brodo simmering on the stove for an entire afternoon. Delicious on its own, but also the backbone of so many of our family meals; soups, sauces, risotto, stir-fries, braises and casseroles.
Despite all the hype, a good stock has always been an essential staple of a well stocked kitchen larder. Not so long ago there were no convenient commercially available tetra packs of stock and consommé. The closest flavour substitute was a powdered bouillon cube ready to be dissolved in hot water at a moment’s notice. Needless to say, nutritionally and flavour wise, nothing compares to sparkling homemade stock. Hence over the years, I too, like my mother and grandmother before me, have always tried to find the time to make up a batch in my rather large stockpot. Sometimes regularly, sometimes not. But often times enough, that stock making has somehow also, in turn, become ingrained in my children’s psyche as a panacea for the soul.
There’s no way around it, a good stock needs time and patience to develop great body and depth of flavour, but it’s always well worth the effort. I’ve included our family recipe below. For a chicken brodo I simply substitute 4 or 5 chicken carcasses (purchased from the butcher) and simmer for a shorter period of time, usually 3 – 4 hours, as the bones are more fragile.
Simmered, skimmed and clarified, brodo also happens to be the perfect 5-2 fast day pick me up. Nutritionally dense, it also happens to be low in calories with one warming, healthful homemade cup consisting of anywhere between 17 and 38 calories depending on how much fat has been successfully removed from the broth. As brodo is simply the broth that remains when the bones, vegetables and aromatics have been removed from the soup, I have departed from my usual habit of listing the calorie count of each ingredient separately. The resulting calorie count of your brodo will depend on how successfully you have removed fat from the stock. The easiest way to do this is to place the brodo in the fridge overnight. Any fat in the stock will rise and solidify to the top and is easily removed with a spoon. The hallmark of a well made brodo is a wobbly, gel like consistency when cold. This indicates a good amount of nutrients, including the all important collagen and keratin, have been extracted from the bones.
Beef Broth, Stock or Brodo
Makes 10 – 12 cups. (17 – 38 calories per cup depending on how successfully fat has been removed from the stock)
1.5 kg beef bones, any combination of oxtail, shin and marrow bones
enough cold water to cover the bones, this will depend on size of the stock pot; approximately 4 litres (16 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled, sliced into chunks
2 stalks celery, sliced into chunks
1 leek, white part only, rinsed well, sliced lengthwise into quarters,
1 large onion, halved and peeled (or 8 long green spring onions, trimmed and cut in half lengthways)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thickly
8 sprigs Italian parsley
2 fresh bay leaves
plenty of sea salt flakes, to taste
PREHEAT oven to 180 C and line a roasting tin with baking paper.
RINSE the bones well, removing visible fat.
PLACE onto the baking tray and bake in hot oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.
TRANSFER the roasted bones into a large stock pot with tongs. Add just enough cold water to cover them.
BRING the water to a bare simmer over moderately low heat. Skim the surface to remove any impurities.
AS THE stock begins to bubble, add the vegetables and aromatics.
ADJUST the heat to a gentle simmer, the bubbles should barely break the surface. Do not allow the broth to boil or the brodo will be cloudy.
SIMMER gently without stirring for 5-6 hours. I prefer to use a diffuser or simmer under my stockpot to ensure a long slow simmer. Skim regularly to remove impurities.
REMOVE from heat. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Season to taste with sea salt.
PLACE in refrigerator, preferably overnight. The hallmark of a well made brodo is a wobbly, gel like consistency when cold. Any fat in the stock will rise and solidify to the top and is easily removed with a spoon. Remove all visible fat.
STORE in jars or containers in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for 2-3 months.