Whenever Kim and Nick and Sabina and Ramona, my favorite vegetarians, come for a visit, I run to the pantry to purge all of the carnivorous contraband.
(Well, okay, not everything. Not the stuff in the freezer, the meat sauce and beef stew and turkey hot dogs and the fish my friend Bob caught last summer, hiding in the back behind the veggie-friendly organic pizza and tofu pups.)
This time, the only no-no items I found on the pantry shelves were "stock" items: chicken and beef broth.
(Confused about the terms stock and broth? So was I. Generally, stock is made from bones and trimmings; broth is made with actual pieces of meat, which yields a richer flavor. Stock and broth can be used interchangeably in most home cooking.)
I love making chicken stock, especially with the leftover carcass of a roasted chicken, but for some reason I've never warmed to the process of making beef stock. It's not hard to do; roast some bones and root veggies in the oven until they are well browned, then add to a stock pot with a bay leaf and peppercorns and water to cover, and simmer for a couple of hours, skimming any fat that rises to the surface. Remove the solids, bring the liquid to a boil, and reduce by half. Voila -- beef stock.
Easy, and yet I seldom make it, because for me it's easier to keep good quality, low-sodium or salt-free canned broth on the pantry shelf, ready and waiting to become the basis for Oriental pot roast, Texas roadhouse chili, beef bourguignon, pho, or good old lentil soup. Most of the time, I combine beef broth with chicken stock or broth, for a deeper flavor that isn't entirely beefy.
Hot and sour soup
Not typical in any way, this soup adapted from Jae Chung, owner of Jae's Café in Boston, is colorful and delicious and as spicy as you wish — a perfect lunch or dinner in the cold winter months. It's even great for breakfast. Serves 2.
1 cup chicken broth, low-sodium store-bought or homemade
1 cup beef broth, low-sodium store-bought or homemade
3/4 cup diced vegetables: onions, green and red pepper, fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/2 tomato, diced
1 giant shrimp, minced
1 giant scallop, minced
1 tsp chili paste with garlic (or more to taste)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp oyster sauce mixed with 1-1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp cornstarch solution (1 part cornstarch diluted in 3 parts water)
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup firm tofu, cut into large cubes
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp chopped scallion
In a wok or large sauté pan over highest heat, bring stock to a boil. Add vegetables and chopped tomato, and simmer 3-4 minutes. Add shrimp, scallop, chili paste, garlic, oyster sauce mixture, fish sauce, and soy, and simmer for 3 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar, and continue to simmer another 2 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch solution until fully incorporated. Drizzle in the beaten egg — do not stir, but allow the egg to set lightly into long strands. Then, at the last moment, add in the tofu, stir to combine, and add the sesame oil on top. Serve hot, garnished with chopped scallion.
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