I have found that adding broth instead of water to almost everything improves the flavor and complexity of a dish. I have also found that unless you spend a good amount of money on it, store brand broths are too salty and taste bad. Even the more expensive brands can be a disappointment in the flavor department. So I began long ago making my own vegetable and meat stocks and the great part is they don’t cost hardly anything because I use the parts of the food that would normally be tossed onto the compost pile or garbage.
Now most of the time a “professional” cooking show or book will talk about using the whole vegetable or piece of meat etc, but this is just silly. I have created delicious and full flavored broths just using the shells from the shrimp, bones from the chicken or lamb and discarded bits of vegetables. For example today I am making grilled chicken breasts with a salad and fresh salsa for dinner. So I had two chicken breast bones, outside wrapper and peel of a onion, wrappers and ends of some garlic, innards of a few sweet peppers, skin and ends of a carrot, stalks from cilantro, ends from some celery and stems from some spinach. I threw all this “trash” into a 4 quart sauce pot, added salt, pepper, a bay leaf and filled the pot with water. I then brought the stock to a boil, skimmed off any foam and fat and simmered on low for an hour and a half. Once cooked, I strained the broth into a two quart container and let it cool. I did not use the leftover bits of hot pepper because I did not want a spicy stock, but if this had been for a spicy dish I would have. Pretty simple I must say.
I know, you are too busy to do this all at once, right?
Wrong. See the stock can cook after dinner on low or in the morning the next day. You can save the left over bits of veggies in a bag in the freezer and make a batch of vegetable stock once enough parts have accumulated. You can save the raw meat bones or fish shells/bones in a separate bag in the freezer as well. Once the stock is made you can freeze it or keep it in the fridge. Fresh meat stock lasts for about two weeks in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer. Vegetable stock lasts forever either way. Fish stock made from heads and bones should be used that day or it turns to jelly but stock made from fish shells lasts the same as meat.
Yes, you do have to buy meat with the bone in it and remove it. Since chicken breast sold with the bone in is always cheaper than boneless even with the weight of the bone factored in to the cost what do you have to lose. The same is true for any meat roast, fish or shellfish. It really only adds five minutes worth of cooking to remove the bones yourself. Not to mention that shrimp shells create one of the best flavors after simmering for only 45 minutes. You can also use the leftover stock in the fridge as part of the water for the next batch of stock, creating stronger broth afterwards. Trust me you will notice the difference in dishes as simple as rice using fresh homemade stock.