By Chef Eamon Lee, CEC
Broth is an ancient culinary staple, stemming from as far back as the cavemen, who extracted every bit of flavor from the heads to the tails of whole animals in order to survive. Over the last few years, broth has been popping up on menus, captivating consumers with its extensive list of nutritional benefits and rich flavor. With health top of mind for so many consumers, broth is a trend that provides tremendous opportunity to execute quality, healthful foundations with innovative flavor profiles that serve as the backbone of multiple dishes.
When we say broth – we’re not talking about a simple stock – stocks and broths are prepared using similar techniques, but the main difference is how they’re fortified. Stocks are solely made up of bones and water and are typically found in the production of other plates while broth is any liquid that’s fortified with simmered meats and vegetables and can be served as is. Preparing broth is more than getting rid of unwanted scraps and inexpensive cuts; it’s all about the execution of a flavorful foundation produced with quality products that heighten the character of any meal.
Building Basic Broths
Nothing can replicate the depth of flavor produced through the use of collagen-rich meats, vegetables, and aromatics. Made-from-scratch broths are valuable assets to your menu taking any dish to new heights. If time and labor constraints prevent you from preparing house-made broths, Maines is happy to provide ready-to-use broths that save time and labor allowing you to offer exceptional, trending menu items.
A well-balanced broth involves simple steps including temperature control, skimming, and straining. Before adding ingredients to your broth, brown the meat, mirepoix, or vegetables to extract flavor. Add ingredients to a pot of cold water, along with bouquet garni or sachet d’épices if desired, and cover. Slowly bring the liquid to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer, skimming occasionally. Once the meats and vegetables are tender, strain the broth through a china cap lined with damp cheesecloth and voila, a basic broth with limitless flavor possibilities.
Here are some basic broth-building tips to help you create foundational broths that can be served as is or improved with signature additions, helping you prepare phenomenal plates, heighten your reputation, and increase profitability.
If you want to create a game-changing chicken broth, you need to think beyond super inexpensive chicken necks and backs. Take a hard look at collagen-rich cuts and mix and match chicken feet, wings, thighs, and legs (available at Maines). Utilizing meat cuts from more exercised parts of the chicken will contribute more notable flavor; the more fully developed the muscle, the more pronounced the flavor. Use a range of aromatics such as carrots, celery, leeks, onion, parsley, mushrooms, rosemary, basil, ginger, tarragon, thyme, peppercorns, and dry wine to create unique flavor combinations for a one-of-a-kind, rich broth.
Use chicken broth to simmer grains, enhance vegetable glazes, and build an authentic shio or shoyu ramen. Shoyu ramen is soy-based broth, and shio ramen is a salt-based broth made with chicken bones, (sometimes pork bones), vegetables, and salt. Preparing shoyu or shio ramen involves more than adding soy or salt to individual plates; these types of broths encompass their own flavor profiles and boast layers of subtle flavors that meld as the broth simmers. Serve a traditional shio or shoyu broth with TMI Trading ramen noodles (available at Maines), soft-cooked eggs, scallions, nori, and chili oil, or get creative with ingredients like snap peas, shrimp, or peanuts.
Utilizing pork broth on your menu is cost-effective compared to other broths, as pastured pork bones are often cheaper than pastured chicken and grass-fed beef bones. Use pork necks, butts, legs, hips, knuckles, and ribs, along with pig feet that add collagen-rich textures. Garlic, celery, carrots, leeks, onions, mushrooms, fennel, thyme, and rosemary best complement the nutrient-rich, gelatinous components of pork broth.
As a staple in Asian cuisine, pork broth is an excellent fit for several Asian-style bowls. Pork broth provides tonkotsu, a traditional Japanese broth, with a thick, creamy foundation for another Asian-style bowl. For a world-class tonkotsu, add flavor enhancers like onions, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, leeks, and scallions to the pork broth. Serve tonkotsu with sliced pork belly, bamboo shoots, soft-cooked eggs, sliced scallions, enoki mushrooms, and bok choy leaves.
House-made beef broth exudes a deep, rich flavor and allows chefs to get imaginative in the kitchen with endless combinations of cuts. Any grouping of beef shank, chuck, brisket, rib roast, bottom round, oxtail, short ribs, veal shank or veal shin is ideal for brewing an exceptional beef broth. Boost the mineral and flavor content with the addition of carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms, cumin, garlic, cilantro, or oregano.
Beef broth is the soul of pho, an authentic Vietnamese dish containing beef broth, rice noodles, herbs, and thinly sliced beef. Many chefs choose to use knuckle and leg bones, but any combination of beef bones will make your broth unique. Aromatics like celery, carrots, onion, ginger, and spices like coriander, cloves, fennel, star anise, and cardamom round out the flavors of the sumptuous cuts. Top pho with thinly sliced flank steak, London broil, sirloin, or tri-tip. Instead of beef slices, you can also feature bo vien, also known as Vietnamese meatballs.
Consumers have likely enjoyed thousands of vegetable broths before, giving chefs incentive to go beyond the traditional ingredients to make their broth memorable. Start with a variety of quality vegetables that have complementing flavors such as leeks, rutabagas, parsnips, and cabbage. Consider utilizing organic produce to increase the nutritional content and value of your broth along with your reputation and profits. Update vegetable broth seasonally on your menu, utilizing spinach, broccoli, and radishes in the spring and featuring sweet potatoes in the fall. It’s also important to add as many usable vegetable scraps as you can such as celery leaves, mushroom stems, and broccoli stems to reduce waste and amplify flavor.
A vegetable broth is easy to build upon and can be used as the foundation for any Asian-style bowl. Elements like ginger, lemongrass, and fresh lime juice can transform vegetable broth into a well-rounded Thai base. You can also amp up the spice level with Thai red curry paste and add fish sauce, coconut milk, bok choy, sweet potato, and garlic for a Thai curry vegetable broth. Menu this item as a vegetarian-friendly option to reach a wider range of customers.
Dashi is a flavoring broth at the heart of Japanese cuisine made from umami-rich ingredients: kombu (dried kelp), katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes), and water. Its savory flavor profile adds layers of distinct tastes that cannot be replicated, offering your operation a powerful tool to create differentiation.
To prepare dashi, heat kombu until it softens, discard, add bonito flakes and bring to a gentle boil then strain. Making dashi is a simple process that can go far as a menu enhancement. Use dashi as a base for various soups, flavorful poaching liquids, vinaigrettes, sauces, and brines.
Miso soup, an on-trend dish with high amounts of probiotics and added health benefits, uses dashi as the foundational broth and typically features miso paste, wakame (edible seaweed), tofu, and scallions. This Asian-inspired soup is a staple on many menus but can be enhanced with soba noodles, a mix of pungent greens, mushrooms, sake, mirin, shichimi, chili oil, or a soft-cooked egg.
bouquet garni and sachet d’épices
Bouquet garni and sachet d’épices are used to impart flavorings and aromatics into broths, stocks, soups, stews, and sauces. Bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs such as parsley stems, celery, thyme, and leeks all tied together with twine while sachet d’épices combines herbs and spices such as peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley stems, cloves, and thyme in cheesecloth. Tie these flavor enhancers to a string so they can be easily removed before serving.
Broths are the ultimate cornerstones of cooking. While the ingredients and flavors meld for hours, the product execution is seen with time, patience, and dedication to creativity and flavor building. Incorporating any broth into your menu creates high-margin, value-rich returns. Once you master the art of building a flavorful foundational broth, the sky is the limit for the broth-based items you can create.