Broth & Stock From The Nourished Kitchen, by Jennifer McGruther
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/10 Speed Press in exchange for an honest review.]
Even before I read the author’s biography and saw that the author lived in Washington, and even before she made comments about the environmentally sustainable practices of fishing in the Pacific Northwest or made several plugs for responsibly harvested fish, this book had a certain je ne sais quoi of being written by someone from the Pacific Northwest, a certain appreciation for quirky food items, a certain expectation of the reader that they too are fond of these items, an awareness of community farming and a blend of cultures including Asian and Russian elements. Even if various dietary restrictions prohibit a reader from enjoying all of the dishes described here, and there are many I cannot eat, and even if some of the food items are very unusual, there is enough of worth in this oddball book to make it immensely worthwhile to read, and even more importantly, to try out in cooking. When it comes to books about food , any book that gives me new foods that I want to eat is one I consider successful, and by those standards this book is very successful, besides being immensely beautifully laid out with elegant photographs.
The contents of this book are well-organized and straightforward, but no less attractive for that. Not only that, but even if the recipes discussed are more than simply broths and stocks, this book has far more recipes for different types of dishes of that type than most people would be familiar with, and in those dishes which are more substantial, the broths and stocks discussed are a key element of the meal. The book begins with a discussion of the immense importance of broth and stock in the diet of people throughout history and the role of broth in the development of the restaurant . The second chapter of the book contains various master broths and stocks that serve as key elements of the dishes that follow, including broths made from chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, and vegetables, stocks containing double-cooked bones (remouillage) as well as broths made of skimmed chicken skin (pena). The rest of the book takes a different division of food and contains more specialized broths as well as dishes that are made including the broths discussed. Chapter 3, with poultry dishes, contains a morning broth, a light broth for infants, as well as some dishes that look especially tasty—slow-roasted salt and pepper chicken, chicken soup with parmesan, rice, peas, and lemon, and dash-braised chicken thighs. The chapter on meats includes beef tea, portable soup (a dish of major importance in the Lewis & Clark expedition), quick pho, beef stew with winter vegeteables, and beef shank with garlic and basil, all dishes that make me wish I was not gouty. The chapter on fish consists mostly of various dishes that include clams or shellfish, but there is a dish on salmon, celeriac, and potato chowder with dulse that may appeal to some readers. The final chapter of the book discusses vegetable dishes, including Bieler’s broth, an irish vegetable soup, and carrot and leek soup with thyme that all look worthy of trying out. After the recipes the book includes some advice on where to shop as well as a bibliography, conversions from standard to metric dimensions, and some acknowledgments.
If some of the recipes appear to assume a high standard of living among its readers, the book as a whole is promoting the sort of cooking that can be done cheaply and helps reduce waste. Many of the broths made are done from parts of animals that are not particularly expensive—big marrow-rich soup bones that are cooked for long periods of time to soak the juices out, chicken feet to make for a rich, gelatinous chicken broth, and waste parts of chicken and vegetables that would otherwise be thrown out but that can be judiciously made into tasty dishes. The book is aimed at an audience of somewhat privileged people who can buy more or less whatever foods they want, and enjoy shopping at various ethnic shops and perhaps even have some fancy cookery, but who want to avoid waste and want to feel as if they are living somehow honorably and decently and sustainably. Even so, this book is a testament to a lengthy human history of resourceful cooks who made the most out of the foods they had because one could not afford to waste anything, and this book offers much to readers on that level, even if unintentionally and out of homage for the ways of past generations when broths and stocks were the foundation for cooking out of need rather than out of desire.
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