Express Stock

Back in Business !

After 55 days of lockdown in France, the country is officially reopening ! Yesterday was France’s last day of the strict coronavirus lockdown, known as confinement. Not all businesses are reopening, though.

Restaurants, cafés, and bars, the holy trinity of Parisian life, might reopen in June with the government’s blessing, but we are all waiting for the Ministre de la Santé to announce when French eateries can begin serving us food. At a beautifully laid table. In a place that’s not home. With wine !

Comfort foods

I’ve almost forgotten what eating in a restaurant feels like. During the last many weeks, we’ve all been cooking at home for all our meals. I’ve noticed on social media that a lot of people have turned to cooking and baking not only for physical survival, but for psychological sustenance as well.

All kinds of comfort foods have been showing up on Instagram, from mac ‘n cheese to hearty stews. Our go-to meals – simple and easy to make – have included a delicious French potato melt.

It’s oozing, hot-from-the-oven Mont d’Or cheese spooned over long-baked potatoes and served with mountain charcuterie and a big green salad. But that was back when it still felt like winter here.

Corona Express

Even though the outdoor temperatures are warming up nicely now, we still all need comfort where we can get it in these trying times. Comfort, for us, is not being trapped in our tiny Parisian apartment : the day before confinement went into effect, the five of us – David-Nicolas, myself, the kids, and the cat – hopped on a train (a veritable “Corona Express”) to Burgundy, surrounded by mask-wearing, coughing Parisians, all escaping the city.

After that harrowing train ride, we made it to our destination : a gîte, or vacation rental house, mere minutes from our own country house – our renovation continues ! (My newsletter subscribers get exclusive access to our house photos.) For food, we’ve been shopping the local farmer’s market, housed in a Baltard-type hall.

Unlike in Paris, our nearby village’s market has thankfully remained open even during lockdown. The vegetables we find there look like rare jewels in these strange times, especially considering that our counterparts in Paris (farmer’s markets) have been entirely shut down.

Tractors and dandelions

The thing is : with no day care for our 2½-year-old twins, we don’t have time for elaborate cooking. Our kids spend their (and our) time :

-  Doing somersaults off the back of the sofa,
-  Locking themselves in an empty rabbit hutch,
-  Running into the barn to climb into one of the many tracteurs,
-  Gathering eggs in the henhouse,
-  Picking dandelions to blow into the wind,
-  Pushing around an old “weebobo.”

Almost all of these activities are worthwhile pursuits, and the kids are learning all about farm life here at the lovely Gîte des Marronniers. So even if we don’t have a lot of time to cook, we’re eating healthy and delicious local foods.

Seduced by organic

And since I love to cook, but don’t have as much time as I’d like, nor the specialized materials I have at home (if you consider a basic stock pot to be among specialized materials, that is), I’ve taken liberties and shortcuts I would never have thought possible in previous times. Like using store-bought chicken or vegetable stock, but improving on it. And these cubes definitely need improving !

Sigh. I don’t usually buy Maggi products, but I’ll admit to being seduced by the Bio (organic) label. And my Yuka food and cosmetic scan mobile application approves these cubes with a grade of Bon (at 66/100). Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. We’ll be back to more cooking soon, and back in business even sooner. Happy cooking and stay well !

Express Stock

Enhancing store-bought stock is easy and you can even personalize the stock according to the recipe you’ll be making (see this article from Kitchn for some specific ideas). So if you’re among those people who have lots of time on your hands, go ahead and make all the homemade stock you’d like. But if you’re like us, with zero day care in sight, guilt-free shortcuts like my Express Stock are pratique indeed.

ingredients :
- 2 branches celery, washed
- 2 leeks (green part only ; reserve white part for other use), washed well
- 2 carrots, washed and peeled
- 8 cups (2 liters) store-bought chicken or vegetable stock, or cold water if using bouillon cubes
- 4 bouillon cubes (chicken or vegetable) if not using liquid store-bought stock
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 parsley sprigs
- freshly ground pepper or 2 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf

how to make it :
1. Roughly chop the celery, leeks, and carrots, and place them in a soup pot with the store-bought stock or water. Bring to the boil and add the bouillon cubes (if using), garlic, parsley, and pepper.
2. Let the stock simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes. Add the bay leaf.
3. Let it simmer for 10 more minutes. Strain and cool in a large bowl. When fully cooled, the stock will keep for 2 days in the refrigerator, but I like to use it right away to make my favorite seasonal recipes like Tomato and Tarragon Soup or Late Spring Turnip and Pea Soup. You can also use this quick stock as a base for my Chicken Pho recipe, or if you encounter a cold and rainy day (like today !), use this quick stock to make Gratinéed Onion Soup. Bon app’ !

makes about 4 cups of stock



Tags : stock , France , quick stock , Burgundy , lockdown , French cooking , French onion soup , French markets , Mont d’Or cheese , bouillon


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