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September 20, 2010

I made lamb stock, and all is well with the world...

Late last week, I tweeted about the very distinct possibility that I might have a few hours of downtime over the weekend.  And, as soon as I saw the words appear on the screen, I kicked myself, because I thought I might've jinxed it. 

But alas, I did indeed have a few hours on Sunday with no work to be done, no deadlines to meet, no conference calls to run, no all-day strategy sessions to attend.  

First things first -- I went to the farmers' market:

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The middle of September is betwixt and between when it comes to produce in this part of the country.  Is it summer or is it fall?  Well, there are still a few stone fruits (last of the peaches) and tomatoes, but they're displayed on tables next to honeycrisp apples, which scream fall to me, and sweet potatoes (just thinking about them makes me want to wear a sweater).  Green beans and pea shoots next to winter squash.  I don't mind it, though.  This straddling of seasons makes me far more happy than the bridge from winter into spring, where if I see one more beet or turnip, I'll scream.  The weather here was so weird this year that nothing came into season when it typically does.  Some things were way early (corn), while others ripened weeks past their usual time (tomatoes).  I love fairytale eggplant, so I stocked up on those and will make a curry later this week with them.  And, my favorite egg and meat guy just started doing chorizo, so I had to get some of that. 

The other thing I bought?

Lamb bones:  DSC_0003

Since I only had a few hours to cook, and I wanted to prep some food for daily consumption this week (I love Indian and Thai takeout, but 5 weeks of it has wreaked havoc on my girlish figure), I decided to make some lamb stock, using the recipe in the Alinea cookbook.  I needed my house to smell like someone who cooks lives here.

I like to think I've mastered stock.  I can do The French Laundry's veal stock without hesitation.  I make a mean chicken stock, vegetable stock, fish stock, corn cob stock, and even goat stock.  I am pretty traditional in my aromats, but every now and then I like to mix it up.  For instance, using rue instead of thyme in goat stock, and then cooking beans in that stock?  Love. Adding summer savory to corn cob stock, then making risotto with it?  You might pass out, it's so good.

Per the book's instructions, I took 5 pounds of lamb bones, arranged them evenly in a roasting pan, and roasted them in a 400-degree oven for an hour.  I turned the bones every 15 minutes so they'd cook evenly and not stick to the pan:

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While they roasted, I sat outside at my table, drank an incredibly awesome cup of coffee, and read about my boyfriend, Michael Bloomberg's, latest political endeavors:

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After an hour, the bones looked like this:

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I put them into my giant stock pot, covered them with water (and added more so that the water line was 6 inches above the bones), and brought it to a simmer.  I skimmed off the gunk that rose to the surface of the water, then stirred in tomato paste, carrots, onions, thyme, and peppercorns:

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I stirred, and skimmed, and let it simmer for 6 hours over low-medium heat:

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I removed the bones and threw them away.  Then, I poured the stock (with the remaining vegetables and a few residual bone chunks) through a fine-mesh strainer into another stock pot:

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The sun set on what had been a particularly lovely and not-stressful day, and I finished the stock.  I brought it up to a simmer over medium heat and let it cook until I only had about 1000g left.

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With just a few minutes to go before Mad Men started, voilà!  A thousand grams of lamb stock ... now chilled in the fridge and headed to the freezer in a few minutes until I'm ready to use it for the "Lamb, in cubism" dish.

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My house smells amazing.  I love that something as simple as stock can make a good day great.

For now?  It's back to the grind. But I'm dreaming of something sweet, and can't wait to get up to my elbows in chocolate.

Up Next: Chocolate, warmed to 94 degrees

Resources: Lamb bones from Smith Meadows Farm; onions and carrots from Twin Springs Fruit Farm; thyme from my garden; peppercorns from the pantry; and, Muir Glen tomato paste.

Music to Cook By: The Doobie Brothers; Best of.  Because "China Grove" makes the act of chopping vegetables even more cathartic.

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Welcome back, Carol.

Interesting that the veggies, tomato paste, thyme, and peppercorns are added so early. From what I've read (I'm thinking Michael Ruhlman mostly) maximum effect is achieved by giving them an hour, max, to flavor the stock. I don't own the Alinea cookbook, is there an explanation for their early addition?

Stock is one of my favour things to make. Chicken, veal, vegetable...etc, it's all good.

Corn cob risotto just went on the list. Insert flailing expressions of deep gratitude here.

Can I come live with you? I could cook on the days you need to work and you could pay me back with the incredible things you make. Corn cob risotto does sound amazing. Please mention it again next summer. I'll bet you could leave the savory out and make sweet corn ice cream with caramel sauce too.

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