September 17, 2016 by Dan
In case it helps someone else, here are the things we got in our latest trip to Shun Fat Supermarket. All we’ve verified are “safe” for Sprout and free of dairy, egg, gluten, and sesame.
- Three Ladies rice noodles (various sizes)
- Pagoda rice sticks (noodles)
- Pork shoulder (also known as pork butt)
- Pork soup bones
- House Foods tofu (firm and soft)
- Green papaya
- Arroy-D coconut cream
Category Ingredients | Tags: in our cart,ingredients,shopping | No Comments
July 16, 2016 by Dan
Bone stock is one of the most important components of any meat-based soup and a special flavor enhancer for many other recipes. It’s also generically referred to as ‘stock’ in this blog, many cookbooks, and likely a good number of your most cherished family recipes. Unfortunately, most processed stock sold in stores contains allergens such as dairy or gluten or is made on lines and in plants that process undisclosed allergens. Therefore, making stock at home is crucial when trying to avoid allergens like we are. Luckily for us – and you – it’s also one of the easiest recipes possible, on par with white rice. At its most basic you simmer bones and aromatics in water for a long while.
Note that stock and broth are commonly used interchangeably although technically not the same thing. Stock is liquid without solids and usually made from cooking bones and other cuttings. Broth is made from (and usually includes) meat.
I always begin this recipe with fresh bones from a full service butcher, usually at one of the local Chinese markets here in Los Angeles. I also buy organic bones from Whole Foods when I can get them (otherwise it isn’t worth the extra cost: $0.99 versus $5.99 per pound).
I mostly use beef or pork for stock although you can use bones from any other animal you might eat such as venison or chicken. One other benefit of Chinese markets is that they usually sell de-boned chickens and sometimes have bones for less common animals (though I’ve yet to take advantage).
The best pork or beef bones to use are the long leg bones. You’ll find these bones advertised alternatively as “soup bones,” “marrow bones,” or sometimes simply “bones.” Shank pieces are also good to use when they’re mostly bone (the downside is that shank is usually more expensive). These leg bones pack in the greatest flavor per pound, which I attribute to marrow. This soft sponge-like tissue at the center of bones is where stem cells develop into blood cells. It’s also mostly (~80%) fat and gives credence to Julia Child saying “fat gives things flavor.” That said, I do remove most of the fat as you’ll see in the recipe below.
Here’s my basic stock recipe using a 6 qt (5.7 L) slow cooker. Try it then experiment to your heart’s delight with other aromatics that appeal to you.
Difficulty Level: super easy
Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 to 12 hours (in a slow cooker)
Makes about 2.75 quarts stock
Ingredients (and our sources)
- 2 to 4 lbs (1 to 2 kg) Marrow bones (fresh from the local full service butcher)
- 1 whole onion (local farmers market)
- black pepper (McCormick)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (Squid Brand)
- 2 bay leaves (McCormick)
- 1 inch piece ginger, sliced (local farmers market)
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic (local farmers market)
- Combine the bones and all dry ingredients in the slow cooker
- Add water to fill the remainder of the pot
- Cook on low for about 10 to 12 hours
- Strain the liquid (your stock) into a large metal or glass bowl
- Side note: Most bones come with meat or tendon still attached – see the photo, below – so pick out any edible parts to eat. You can put them into a soup or add to rice or other grains for a quick meal.
- When the stock container is warm to the touch cover the container and put it in the fridge overnight
As it cools, fat will rise to the surface and coagulate while the stock itself will become a semi-solid gelatin (think meat jello). The next day, you’ll be able to remove and discard a thick layer of fat from the top of your gelatinous stock, shown below (yes, that thick white sheet is fat). The gelatin will melt back into a liquid when heated.
- Soup base
- Substitute for half the water in grain recipes such as rice or quinoa.
- Stock takes very little effort or time to process despite the length of time from start to finish. Most time is spent doing other things – such as work or sleep – as the stock cooks or sets. I make stock regularly enough that I often – though it never seems often enough – have stock in the back of the fridge to use when needed.
- I don’t add salt to my recipe. The fish sauce is salty enough. You can substitute sea salt for fish sauce in the recipe.
- Stock isn’t intended as a stand-alone soup. In fact it will probably be bland, one-dimensional, and perhaps a bit tasteless.
- The fat layer will help preserve your stock gelatin, so leave it on top if you don’t need the stock for a few days.
- Stock is one of the most flexible recipes I know, so feel free to substitute other aromatics.
- When I have a particular soup in mind I’ll add the aromatics for that soup into the slow cooker for the stock. That is, when the aromatics can be cooked a long while. Some aromatics like cilantro or basil go in at the very end, just before serving. For example, I cut out a step in a recipe for Chinese beef stew by adding about 5 or 6 star anise pods (I’ll eventually post that recipe).
- Fresh bones from a full service butcher are best. I like to buy from the local Chinese supermarkets that have a full service counter, but will buy organic when I can get them from other sources such as Whole Foods.
- Organic is important and worth the extra cost because many of the toxins from pesticides are concentrated in fat.
- If you’re in Los Angeles, Shun Fat Supermarket in Monterey Park and Hawaii Supermarket in San Gabriel are my go-to markets.
- The Glendale Whole Foods regularly stocks organic marrow bones because it serves a thriving immigrant population from Armenia, Eastern Europe, and Korea who provide sufficient demand. It also regularly sells other meats such as cow tongue and organic beef liver I rarely see elsewhere. I haven’t had as much luck at other Whole Foods in the area.
Category basics, Ingredients, Recipes | Tags: beef,dairy-free,easy recipe,egg-free,gluten-free,ingredients,pork,recipe,sesame-free | No Comments
June 23, 2016 by Dan
Fish sauce gives a savory boost – some people call it ‘umami’ – to a lot of foods. Squid Brand is a bold-flavored Thai-style fish sauce that has become our go-to for most recipes (excluding dipping sauces) that call for fish sauce. I’m also prone to drizzle some into recipes in lieu of salt when experience says the flavors match.
Unlike some other brands of fish sauce, Squid Brand only contains three ingredients: anchovy extract, salt, sugar, and water. It doesn’t have any additional MSG or preservatives. And – even more importantly – in our experience it is safe for our little Sprout (i.e. it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and sesame-free).
We use it for Vietnamese and Thai recipes that call for fish sauce – naturally. We also like to substitute fish sauce in place of salt in many dishes that need an extra oomph. I often drizzle a bit into stir fry recipes, and have used it 50/50 with tamari (a gluten-free soy sauce) in a modified 3-2-1 marinade (3 parts sake, 1 part tamari, 1 part fish sauce, and 1 part sugar).
We also put Squid Brand in any recipe that calls for Worcestershire sauce, which is actually a British version of fish sauce. As an aside, we found out about this substitution while trying to find a Sprout-safe Worcestershire sauce in 2009. At the time, Heinz – owner of Lea & Perrins – refused to tell us anything about its products beyond saying it would only disclose whether the product includes the top 8 allergens. In fact, Heinz is by far the most frustrating company to deal with in our quest to find safe foods. Unlike other companies Heinz (a) wouldn’t tell us if Lea & Perrins or its other products contains sesame (despite it being required to make such disclosure in other countries where those products are sold); (b) tell us if the product is produced in a facility that processes other allergens on our list; or (c) disclose any detail about its hygiene practices when switching a line between products. Forget even getting them to rule out sesame or gluten from ‘natural flavorings.’ Needless to say we avoid Heinz products and use Squid Brand Fish Sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce.
Where to buy
Squid Brand is generally available in Chinese markets in Los Angeles. In the San Gabriel Valley I’ve also seen it a few Ralph’s supermarkets.
If you’re outside Los Angeles, check with a local Asian market close to where you live. It’s one of the most common brands sold, so may be available. You can also buy online at some online Asian markets such as ImportFoods.com.
Category Ingredients | Tags: dairy-free,egg-free,gluten-free,in our pantry,ingredients | No Comments
May 1, 2016 by Dan
Today’s spotlight is on Laura Soybeans, grown and sold by the Chambers Family Farm in Iowa.
We consume a lot of soy. It’s provides a complete protein, is a healthy substitute for meat, and is very versatile as an ingredient. Most importantly for us, soy was one of the first things we cleared in Sprout’s diet seven years ago. Although he reacted a bit through the skin prick and IgE blood tests, the reactions were relatively small compared to other allergens, and his food challenge was negative. Not that it wasn’t already in our diet before his allergy diagnoses, but it has become much more important since then.
In our experience it’s difficult to come by beans (and other legumes) that aren’t cross-contaminated with gluten. The same equipment is generally used to process and store legumes and grains up and down the production and distribution chain. Based on past experience washing in water doesn’t remove all gluten, though we’ve tried at various times. This requires us to buy directly from growers, such as Chambers Family Farm, or smaller distributors that have a reputation as not having gluten cross-contamination, or (usually) larger companies that certify their products gluten-free.
At first we bought a lot of soy milk in boxes (please note that we had to clear that soy milk when first giving to Sprout). In fact we’d buy a case of plain, organic soy milk every week or two from Whole Foods (10% off when you buy a case). Eventually, Brett stumbled across the Chambers Family Farm website for Laura Soybeans. Their legumes are non-GMO and don’t share facilities with gluten. As their website says, Laura Soybeans “are grown, harvested, processed and packaged right here on our 5th generation family farm.”
We generally use about twenty pounds of dried soy beans per year. Most goes into soy milk but we sometimes add the dried beans into soups or stews. I also adding them to the slow cooker with caramelized onions to use as a side dish. One day we’ll try making our own tofu. We also use the okara – the bits of solid left behind after making soy milk – in place of breadcrumbs when dried, or as a filler or base for a snack when wet.
Soy milk can be used in place of dairy milk in most recipes. For example, we use fresh soy milk in mashed potatoes, pancakes, bread, non-dairy ice cream, and many more things.
Where to buy
Buy from directly from the grower, Chambers Family Farm at http://www.laurasoybeans.com.
Category Ingredients | Tags: beans,ingredients,soy | No Comments