Vegetable stock has always kind of stumped me (I know, I think about these things way too much). I’ve attempted it many times, and what I usually end up with is disappointingly pale and close to tasteless. So I usually use store-bought organic vegetable broth when I make soup (I randomly alternate between Imagine and Pacific and buy what’s on sale), which is totally fine but irksome because of course I love the idea of using homemade stock and making it is a great way to use up vegetables that otherwise might have to be thrown out.
The other night, the slowly wilting veggies in my fridge were taunting me to take another shot. This time, though, I got smart and consulted an expert. In his newest cookbook, The Food Matters Cookbook, Mark Bittman has a recipe for mushroom stock. Although I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter, I did discover the trick to making rich veggie stock: mushrooms.
In the past, I had always avoided making “mushroom stock” unless I was going to make mushroom soup, thinking the flavor would be too overpowering for regular vegetable soups. Well, I was wrong. The addition of mushrooms gives the stock a deep flavor and meaty dark color, but it’s still fine for basic veggie soups. I used mine for carrot soup last week, and it just made the recipe even better — and it didn’t taste like mushrooms at all. Here’s the recipe for the stock, which is a version of Bittman’s (he uses fewer veggies and adds dried mushrooms, which I think would give the broth a distinct mushroom flavor). By the way, this is a very useful thing to make, even if you’re not an avid soup maker like I am; veggie broth can be added to — and enhances the flavor of — just about anything you cook in a pan, pot, wok, or a skillet.
Vegetable Stock with Mushrooms
Ingredients (This list is what I used; feel free to toss in any veggies in your fridge; all they can do is add to the flavor.)
1 large onion, sliced
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped (you don’t have to peel these but obviously wash them well)
3-4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, including stems, chopped (I used regular button mushrooms, but you could try portobellos, shiitake, or a combination; just know that the flavor will probably be more wild and mushroom-y)
fresh parsley (about 10 stems with leaves)
1 tbs. whole peppercorns
pinch of dried herbs (either thyme, oregano, or sage)
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
Heat about 2 caps of olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, then add the carrots and celery. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and cook for another 10 minutes. Dump veggies in a bowl and reserve. Put another cap of olive oil in the same pot and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the reserved cooked vegetables and a pinch of salt. Stir in 2 quarts of water along with the parsley, herbs, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. Strain with a colander. You can refrigerate this for about a week or so, or freeze it.
By the way, contrary to what you might have heard lately (if you read fancy foodie blogs like I do), it’s totally fine to wash mushrooms by quickly rinsing them in cold water. Just don’t soak them for long, and then let them dry a little (by putting them on a towel) before using them. The fresher they are, the less water they absorb. It’s also fine to just wipe off the dirt with a paper towel or soft vegetable brush. And if they look clean, they probably are, in which case you can just use them as is (really!).