At the holidays, lots of cooks use stocks and broths for their favorite traditional dishes, especially gravy and stuffing. But I have never understood why more people don’t use chicken or beef stock in their cooking all year long.
Learning how to make and use good stocks were some of the first skills I learned in culinary school. That’s because slowly simmered stocks add a lot of flavor to dishes, without adding many calories, too much salt or even much expense. I promise you, they are a secret ingredient in a lot of your favorite restaurant dishes.
Even if you don’t want to go to the trouble of boiling bones and vegetables and making your own stocks to use or freeze, there are a lot of good, prepared, commercially available stocks that are now available. (Emeril even introduced a line of them a few years back.) At home, I always keep beef, seafood, chicken and vegetable stock on hand. They are a must-have for risotto, paella, and just about any sauce that goes with beef, chicken or fish, but you can also use them for lots of other things:
Start homemade soup with stock instead of water for a shortcut that pays off big. You will be able to use a shorter cooking time but the resulting soup will still have deep flavor.
Use stock to cook rice pilaf, or grains like quinoa or barley, or even just plain rice: Again, stock intensifies the flavor, and creates better taste and aroma even in boring, blander grains. Choose a flavor of stock that complements the dish you’re serving with the rice or grain.
Use it to thin soups, soups, stews, gravies and chili instead of water: For intensely flavored dishes like chili, I prefer vegetable stock, which doesn’t clash or overpower spicy dishes.
Mashed potatoes or vegetable purees taste better if you use chicken or vegetable stock for all or part of the cooking liquid. This tricks works especially well with potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and other root vegetables. This also allows you to use less butter or cream and still have a rich-tasting dish.
Roasting veggies? Toss them in stock and just a little olive oil first. Again, you can get away with less fat if you use stock as a cooking liquid
Save the leftovers: If you don’t use the whole container, it will keep in the fridge for up to a week. If you don’t cook often, or in large quantities, freeze leftovers in a zippered plastic bag or even in an ice cube tray, so you will have just enough to use the next time you’re in the kitchen.