I’ve been flicking through Adam Liaw’s Masterchef prize, Two Asian Kitchens, and what a pleasure it is. Completely unlike Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook whose only point seems to be “I’ve got blue eyes!”. Adam’s cookbook is thorough, not too fussily photographed and accessible, which is really saying something as he doesn’t dumb down those Asian classics at all. You really feel like you could whip up Gong Bao chicken, if only you’d bought Chianking vinegar at the Asian grocery shop you were last at rather than Zhen Jiang. Pea brain.
I’d been paying particular attention to the stock discussion. I’ve been a bit bored with the chicken stock I usually produce, I feel like the flavours aren’t right for an Asian dish. Adam discusses two stocks, a general purpose one and a master stock. I first heard of master stocks on the the first season of Masterchef, but they never really went in to what they were. What they are is just a stock that you reuse. Back in the olden days you’d have a pot on the fire all the time which you’d keep topped up with water and you’d chuck stuff in, vegetables and herbs and bits of meat, and you’d fish stuff out and you’d never empty the pot. That’s the principle of a master stock, but in this age of Dettol everyone finds that idea a bit erky, not to mention perky. There are modern ways of doing it, but that’s not what I was planning to chat about.
Adam’s everyday stock was based on chicken bones, which I had, and pork bones which I happened to spot at the local IGA. There was also those little dried fish in the recipe, but I couldn’t come at that, so I left them out. I also didn’t bother with kombu. You put the pork bones in a large stock pot. You cover them with plenty of cold water. You bring it to the boil. You forget about it briefly because the dog has his foot caught in his ear again. You are a bit horrified at the amount of brown scum bubbling on the surface, so you tip the water and scum into the sink, retrieve the pork bones and give the pot a bit of a rinse. Put the bones back in the pot. Add the chicken bones (they’d already been cooked), two thick slices of ginger, five unpeeled cloves of garlic, six chopped green onions, a small, unpeeled brown onion. I also put in a whole lot of celery tops, because I happened to have them and I like the flavour of celery in stock. Cover with water, this is going to make a lot of stock.
Adam says you have to watch it so it never boils, just gently simmers, otherwise it will become cloudy. Well, I can live with cloudy, so it may have come to the boil a few times for the couple of hours I had it going for. Let it cool a bit while you go and pick up the Moose from debating, then strain it into your most giant metal bowl. You don’t want to put that straight in the fridge, it will heat everything up, so gently place it in the sink and surround it with some cool water. It will drop to tepid in less than the time it takes a Horror from Outer Space to perform his choir warmup song for you, with repeats. Put it in the fridge.
Next day you can scoop off the fat on the surface with a slotted spoon, or, in my case, a perforated pasta strainer. The stock has more of a meaty flavour than my usual chicken stock but is a lot more neutral. The first thing I’m planning to do with it is to flavour a couple of cups with black rice vinegar and five spice, maybe some dark soy sauce and boil some rice noodles in it for dinner tonight. They’ll be served topped with some Chinese BBQ pork I picked up today from Burwood and some choy sum and fresh shiitake mushrooms stir fried with chillies and maybe some sesame oil. Obviously a non kid dinner. I am going to make them sample the BBQ pork, one of the great joys of life.
Of the remaining stock, I’ll freeze some as it is, and some I’ll reduce down for a concentrate. I wonder if that will work. That will be to flavour dishes, rather than to make a soup or stew. I have vague thoughts of making a master stock with some of it, but I can’t see myself using it much until the kids are a bit more adventurous with their eating. I do like the sound of the aromatics he suggests putting in the master stock, cinnamon quills, star anise, Sichuan peppers, fennel, cloves, so I may just make that and call it flavoursome stock rather than master stock and only use it once. Nobody need ever know.