When I worked at my first restaurant not even a single onion root would go to waste. Cooks were instructed to put all vegetable scraps - odd ends of onions, carrots and even parsley - into the “stock” bucket in the walk-in fridge. At the end of the week the bucket would be emptied into a huge stock pot where the scraps would be accompanied by chicken bones, fresh onions, celery and carrots then filled to the rim with water. It would bubble away on the stove for hours producing a golden aromatic broth that would make its way into most dishes served at the restaurant.
This basic principle of saving vegetable scraps and using them to make stock or broth is one I practice at home even though I’ve long traded my chef whites for writing about food. Why? Because its a great way of extending the life of any vegetable or herb, it saves money and makes food taste great.
Unlike the restaurant, where the turnaround was huge, I don’t keep a stock bucket per se. Instead, I fill a freezer bag with things like asparagus tips, chopped cabbage leaves or even cilantro stems, and use it to make a flavorful broth at the end of the month or when the bag fills up, whichever happens first.
This is a great restaurant trick anyone can practice at home. All it takes is awareness and practice to create a habit. Next time you are chopping vegetables try keeping two small bowls next to your cutting board: one for vegetable scraps, the other for waste. After you are done chopping just slide the veggie scraps into a plastic bag and freeze. Consider labeling the bag if you share your fridge with other people.
Here are some ideas for what to make with the veggie scraps:
Add cilantro stems or parsley scraps to a simmering pot of black beans.
For vegetable broth: put the veggie scraps in a pot, cover with water and cook with black peppercorns and a few cloves of garlic. Use in soups or as a base for rice, quinoa or even couscous.
For chicken stock: put any leftover chicken bones into a pan along with the veggie scraps, you can add herbs, black peppercorns or garlic for flavor. If the broth will be used for cooking Indian food, throw in a star anise or cinnamon stick. You could also add a dash of turmeric or a chili that's been sliced open.
Use homemade broths for poaching eggs, seafood or making mashed potatoes and to deglaze pans when sautéing.
Have any cooking conundrums? Let us know in the comments below and we'll help you out.
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