Brodo (Meat and Vegetable Stock)

Hi there,

I’m the other half of the chigirl-ausboy (ozboy?) team, Giulian – I’m from Melbourne, Australia as you’ve probably gathered by now, but I come from an Italian background, rich with tradition (it’s all about FOOD!). All of my grandparents were migrants to Australia, the earliest getting there in the 1940s. Hours of my childhood were spent listening to my Nonna Elvira tell my siblings and I the story of the 32-day trip that she took by boat with her sister, starting in Venice, Italy and arriving in Fremantle, Australia, before making their way to Melbourne. To think that I complain that the flight home is long enough now – I can’t even imagine what a nightmare it must have been (and boy did my Nonna have no problem telling us!). Luckily for us, all of my grandparents made it over safely and brought with them a deep appreciation for good food and family.

Even though all of my grandparents came from Italy, the two sides of the family are from about as far away as you can get from each other. My dad’s side comes from Veneto,  my Nonna from Cittadella, a walled “city” built in 1220 AD, and my Nonno from the nearby farming town of Rossano-Veneto. Mum’s side comes from the far south, in the middle of Basilicata (the region between the heel and toe of Italy), from Grumento Nova (also known as Saponara), a tiny walled town nestled in the hills of the Provincia di Potenza.

Italy is small, but the 872 km (yes, I use the metric system) between these two provinces could not produce more diverse styles of cooking within the same cuisine. My dad’s mum (Nonna Elvira) cooked with litres upon litres of oil, in fact, my dad used to make the joke that my Nonna kept the olive oil trade in business. Apart from the oil, the food was hearty, heavy (not really the Mediterranean diet Italians are known for), and there was a lot of it. Meanwhile, mum’s mum (Nonna Maria – there’s always one, right?) cooked in a more lean style and made sure we ate a more balanced meal that didn’t leave you gasping for air by the end. Even though there were differences, the dishes were similar – pasta was always hand-made, sugo (pasta sauce) was fresh (another tradition that maybe I’ll get into another time) and brodo was a common appearance on both sides of the table, especially in the winter. This last one is what I’ll be talking about today, a broth that warms those cockles during the coldest winter evenings.

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Some quick background, I moved to Oberlin, OH in August 2015 with the cooking skills I learnt during 4 years of high school hospitality (thank you, Ms Nankervis). When the Ohio winter came round (it’s quite a bit colder here than a Melbourne winter), the first thing I thought of was making brodo and so, one afternoon, I got all of the ingredients out, Facetimed mum while she was having breakfast (time differences are great) and learnt how to make it! Since meeting Linnea, it has become our staple winter dish and something which is good fun to make together.

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You really can prepare things in whatever order you like, but if you’re by yourself I think this way works best:

Start with the meat – the amount of stock you’re making will determine the amount of meat you need. For a relatively large pot (maybe 7-10 litres) I get roughly 750 grams (about 1.5 lbs) of beef chuck roast, and 3 chicken Maryland (quarter-chickens with the leg and thigh). The beef can go straight into the pot, but you’ll want to wash the chicken and get all of the gunk off it, as well as take most of the skin off – otherwise you’ll end up with an oily broth.

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Once you’ve put all the meat in the pot, you can put in a few pinches of salt and then fill the pot up so that the meat is covered completely by the water (about halfway in a tall pot). Then you’re ready to start boiling – stick it on the stove, and get your knife out!

For this stock you’ll want an onion (large), a few stalks of celery (2 or 3), 1 or 2 carrots, a chunk of butternut pumpkin/squash, 1 tomato, 2 zucchini, a potato, and some parsley.

Peel the onion, chop the ends off the celery, peel the carrots, and the pumpkin, chop the top off the zucchini, and peel the potato and you’re ready to go!

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By the way, we made a double batch this time around, so the amounts pictured above are twice as much as normal.

When the water with meat in it begins to boil, you’ll see some white/brown stuff begin to congeal on top of the water. This is the scum that forms when you boil meat (simply denatured proteins) and while it doesn’t taste of anything, it doesn’t look great so you can skim it off the surface of the boiling water with a spoon (slotted spoons works well).

When the scum is gone, add all of the vegetables in, and then stick a decent handful of parsley on top. Fill the pot up to the top using a jug of water, and let it get to the boil again. When it reaches the boil, turn down the heat and leave the broth to simmer for as long as you like (the longer you leave it, the more concentrated it will be, but 2 hours is a good minimum). To get the pot to simmer at first, you may have to play with the lid and temperature for a bit – mine usually gets there with the heat on low-medium and partially covered.

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During the simmering stage, if the stock boils down more than you want it to you can just add more water and let it boil a little longer, however, 2 hours shouldn’t reduce it too much.

When you’re done, decant your soup into the largest bowl you have and then fish out the vegetables and squeeze some (celery, onion, pumpkin, tomato, zucchini, and even the parsley) into the broth using a sieve, and put the others aside to eat later. You probably won’t want to eat the former as they take on A LOT of water.

Now you can boil up some tortellini or cappelletti and there you have it! You might need to season the brodo more, depending on how much salt you put in at the beginning, but better too little than too much!

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The meat can be eaten as is, but we highly recommend you try these two recipes. You can fry up the beef in some herbs and spices and make greek style wraps, and shred the chicken and cook up a great chicken and corn soup (another favourite of ours). 

Hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my family’s heritage, there’s more to come for sure!

G

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