According to Hugh Acheson — famed Southern chef, Top Chef judge and recipient of multiple James Beard Foundation Awards — cooking a dish from scratch is “one of the most pleasurable things to do in the world.” But it’s also a burden, as most home cooks can attest. Cooking anything with intent requires time and effort. No secret there.
To work around busy schedules, home cooks have long resorted to the slow cooker — that wonderful invention of the mid-20th century that promises convenience and flavor. “I’ve been using a slow cooker pretty regularly for the past ten years,” says Acheson, who made the appliance the focus of his most recent cookbook, The Chef and the Slow Cooker ($17).
“Because it’s contained, you can walk away from it for ten, even twenty hours. It’s good for the classics — you know, things like pot roasts. But it’s amazing at making stocks.”
Acheson devotes an entire chapter of his new book to broths and stocks, one of the keys to unlocking restaurant-level cooking at home. “Adding stocks and foundational flavors to your cooking is like finishing vegetables with a little bit of butter. It just ups your game,” he says.
Many recipes for soups and stews call for basic chicken stock, but bone broth is a versatile alternative with emerging appeal. “It has a gazillion uses,” Acheson says. “You can even steep some with ginger or lemongrass and make sort of a potent coffee alternative in the morning.”
Hugh Acheson’s Bone Broth
Makes four quarts
2 medium tomatoes
4 pounds beef shin bones, split lengthwise
1 large onion, large-diced
3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks with leaves, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1. Cut each tomato in half from pole to pole. Heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. When the skillet is quite hot, add the tomato halves, cut-side down, and char them for five minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.
2. Place the shin bones in a large stockpot, add water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once a boil has been reached, drain off the water and place the bones in a slow cooker. Add the charred tomatoes, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns and four quarts of cold water. Cover with the lid, turn the cooker to the low setting and cook for 9 to 20 hours. (The longer you let it go, the more the flavors will develop.)
3. Once the stock is cooked to your liking, strain it through a colander into containers and discard the solids. Use the stock within four days or freeze it for up to six months.
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