The Den

GUEST: Marsha, septic sibling

MARSHA: [on couch, obviously sick] My nose. Oh. *cough, cough*
AB: Hey. Hey. Hey, Sleeping Ghastly. Wake up.
M: What?
AB: Marsha.
M: What?
AB: You're on my sofa.
M: I know.
AB: Why?
M: I'm sick. I have this terrible flu. *sniff*
AB: Flu?
M: Uh, huh.
AB: You catch influenza and come to my house.
M: Yeah.
AB: Again, I must ask, why?
M: [hands note to AB]
AB: What's that? Prescription?
M: Yeah.
AB: A prescription for broth?
M: Um, hm.
AB: Oh. You want me to fill this for ya.
M: Yes, please.
AB: What do I look like? Florence Nightingale? Take it home to Ronco. Get him to do it for you.
M: Oh, fine. I'll do it myself. [begins to open a can]
AB: Hey. What is that? Hey, give that ... what is that?
M: Uhhh, mmmmm.

AB: Oh. Marsha. Bob's Beefy Broth?

Bob's Beefy Broth

M: Yeah.
AB: Say it ain't so.
M: Okay. It ain't so. Now give it back.
AB: Oh. It appears that my poor, sick, addle-minded, sister has gotten herself addicted to over-the-counter broths.
M: Yep.
AB: Time for some tough love. Give that here. It's not good for ya.
M: Ooo. Aaah. I don't care.
AB: Well, I'll care enough for both of us.
M: Aaah.

    Join us as we trip the broth fantastic. We'll learn how ...

M: Oh no. I don't have time for that silly show.
AB: You've got ... It's not silly.
M: Oooo.

    Simple though it seems, having the ability to translate meat into a liquid form is a very powerful and flexible tool. And besides the obvious medicinal purposes, with a good broth around, you can always infuse a myriad of other foods with meaty other-worldly goodness. All it takes is a little know how and the right tool. And I don't mean that [can opener].

M: Aaaah.

    So, bring out your very, nearly, almost, dead ...

M: A-choo!

    It's time for Good Eats. 

AB: Hey, don't get any of that on the sofa.

Kroger: Alpharetta, GA  10:27 am

GUEST: Nurse

    Soup derives from the old German word, sup, and it's the only food I know of to inspire such devotion as to have a meal named after it, supper. Soup is also inspired its share of witticisms. Moliére, for instance, wrote, "I live on good soup, not fine words."  Beethoven chimed in with, "Only the pure of heart can make a good soup."  A Yiddish proverb states that "Worries go down better with soup," while an equally poetic Spanish verse proclaims, "Of soup of love, the first is best."
    Since soups in general and broths and bouillons in particular were thought to contain the vitality or life essence of the animals that went in to them, they used to occupy a shadowy territory between food and medicine. In fact, many old broth recipes are named for the ailment they were meant to cure: goiter broth, colicky baby broth, and of course, the ever popular plague broth. Today, most of us have to take the cure either from cans or even worse ...

  N: Mr. Brown, it's time for our broth. [has little containers of broth cubes]
AB: Oh, goody. Thank you, nurse. [puts broth cube in mouth]

    [spits it out] Medicinal, yes, but Ironic, too. Let's face it, if we're to land a broth with any culinary or curative creds, we're going to have to make it ourselves. But first, we need to bone up on a little vocabulary.

    Let's start with the word 'stock'. Now in its popular usage, it's often used interchangeably with the word 'broth'. But the truth is, to make a stock, technically at least, you only need two ingredients: water and of course bones. Sure, you can add seasonings, vegetables, whatever you like, but in the end it comes down to water and bones. Now, the word 'stock', in fact, refers to the trunk of tree without any branches or leaves attached. And it's a pretty fair culinary analogy, because once these bones have ... well, not these [human] bones, but you get the point ... once the bones and joints have given up their connective tissue to the, uh, water over there, you're left with a liquid that's got a lot of body, a kind of unctuous mouth-feel but not a whole lot of flavor. That's why most classic sauces have stocks at their base, but you would never order up a bowl of stock as an appetizer. At least I know I wouldn't.


   Then comes the word 'broth'. Now broth is medieval-speak for 'brew' and that's exactly what it is. It's basically water that's had meat and or vegetables cooked or brewed in it. Now if you filter out these bits and pieces you've got broth. If you leave them in you've got soup. But of course, even the best broths always have at least a little [human skeleton passes by] just for body.



    Now when it comes to broth-able critters the chicken used to be king. But modern chickens usually are slaughtered long before they obtain really broth-able flavor. Uh, pork's a problem, too. Ham is a really good seasoning but by and large, pork broths are just a little too piggy.

    That brings us to my broth beast of choice, beef. Now oddly enough, the best broth pieces come from radically different ends of the animal. First we have the shanks or the cross-cut pieces of the forearm. The look kind of like meaty donuts and they've always got a kind of round bone just off center, okay? On the other end of the animal we have the oxtail which doesn't have anything to do with an ox but I guess marketers think it sounds better than 'cow tail'. These are also crosscut and they look like little bitty versions of the shank.



    Now, aside from being very, very cheap and containing a good bit of connective tissue, these humble hunks yield unequal beefiness for the buck. Now for one batch of broth, we go with 3 pounds total. And just split it up as evenly as you can depending, of course, on the packaging.

3 lbs combined
shanks & oxtails

The Den & Kitchen

AB: I'm back.
M: Is it soup, yet?
AB: No, no. It's not soup, yet.

    Unfortunately, this body building transformation of collagen to gelatin takes time. In fact, to do it right it takes a whole lot of time. Of course, time is one of those things that modern cooks don't have a lot of. Luckily, we can substitute an ingredient that we do have a lot of: pressure.

Diving World: Atlanta, GA - 11:42 am

GUEST: "W", Equipment Specialist

    Now, we all live under pressure, uh, depending on our elevation. It's usually about 14 pounds per square inch. Now among other things, this pressure keeps the gas in our blood dissolved. Now if a scuba diver dives too deep, the pressure of the surrounding water will squeeze even more gas into his blood, supersaturating it. If said diver surfaces too quickly, the pressure drops and the gas escapes violently. The blood technically boils and the diver, now suffering from the bends, must be placed into a recompression chamber just like this. Pressurized air is introduced and the bubbles are forced back into the blood.


    Pressure cookers do exactly the same thing, only in their case heat creates steam which expands creating 15 pounds per square inch of pressure which raises the boiling point of the remaining liquid to 250 degrees. Foods placed in such a culinary warp drive cook in two thirds less time than they would in boiling water.

Pressure raises the
boiling point of H20.

    Now early pressure cookers had a nasty habit of blowing sky high. But today's cookers are as safe and efficient as our good friend, W, only a lot friendlier to use. She's back there, isn't she?

W: I know one cook I'd like to apply some pressure to.
AB: Aww, that's sweet, W, but I don't really need a hug just now. I could use some pressure cooker advice, though.
W: Well, all right. Come on.

The first pressure cooker, called the "ingester" was
designed in 1679 by French Physicist Denis Papin.
It blew up a year later.

Trunk of W's Car

 W: All pressure cookers utilize a heavy pot or pan, a lid that locks, airtight seal and a pressure control device.
AB: Device. What kind of device?
 W: Well that depends.
AB: Now I recognize this one. My grandmother had one like this. It jiggled the whole time it cooked, it ...

W: Yes. First generation or jiggle top cookers do the job for a reasonable price but they require constant finessing, lose a great deal of moisture due via the steam and then there is the noise.

jiggle top
(1st generation)

AB: Yeah. Well, there's got to be a 21st century alternative here.

W: A modified first generation instead of a weight they use a sophisticated spring loaded valve and there's less moisture loss and less noise.

pressure valve
(mod. 1st generation)

AB: Okay. Looks good. Ooo, what about this one back here. This looks like a whole different deal.
 W: That is a second generation cooker.
AB: Sweet.

W: Instead of a weight it has a spring loaded rod that maintains the pressure.

spring valve
(2nd generation)

AB: Aah, it's kind of like a tire pressure gauge.
 W: Exactly. They're precise, quiet, but often expensive.
AB: Oh. All right. Well, there's got to be some kind of general guidelines here.

 W: Well, a 6 quart cooker is probably the most reasonable for the average cook. You want double handles for safe moving and check out the manual.

6 qt.
double handles
thorough manual

AB: The manual. It's a pot. Why do I need to check out the manual?
 W: Designs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so good instructions are a must. However, I doubt that you would read them.
AB: Oh, I don't know. I do sometimes run out of comic books. Is that all?
 W: Almost. Pick it up.

AB: It's hefty.
W: Exactly. With pressure cookers heavy is better. Remember, if it feels cheap it probably is.


AB: If it feels cheap, it probably is. I got it. [noticing cookers in her trunk] Now I ... you ... what ...
 W: What?
AB: Oh ... wh ... eh ... eh ... nothing.

The Kitchen

    Browned meat always produces a better tasting broth than un-browned meats. So, my pressure cooker is over high flame where it is going to stay until it is nice and toasty. Meanwhile we prep the meat.

    We've got our shanks and oxtails here and we're going to hit is with just a little bit of canola oil. It doesn't take much. Just enough to coat. And kosher salt which is my rock of choice whenever salt is called for.

3 lbs. combined
shanks and oxtails

canola oil to coat

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

    Now the oil is basically going to work as a, well kind of like a conductor. It's going to help the high heat of this pan to move into the meat very, very quickly. Okay. The salt, well, the salt's going to add flavor on one hand but it's going to do something more subtle. It's going to kind of reach down and coax up some protein laden juices that are hiding just under the surface of the meat. Now once they are up on the surface, they can take part in the Maillard madness and that means more flavor.

That's Maillard "Reaction", which is responsible for browning.

    So once we know this is really hot, and it is, the meat goes in. But how it goes in is really, really important because if that pan gets crowded, this stuff is not going to brown. Okay. So be very careful how you arrange. I'm not going to put all of the shanks in at once. I want to make sure there's at least an inch or so around all the pieces. I'm going to end up doing this in two shifts, so to speak, and that's okay. Now while that goes on, we can go for the other ingredients. Just don't go far. Because just beyond Maillard lies burnt and that's not good eats.

    Now let's just see what we have left around here. Ah. The perfect aromatic beginning to just about everything on earth, onions. And looks like we probably got two mediums here. And they are quartered which is fine. We're also going to need some celery, two ribs, cleaned but not cut. And a couple of sticks of carrots would be nice, too. Same thing, peeled, cleaned, not chopped. Uh, some parsley would be good and we've got stems which is all that you really need. Garlic, leftover garlic, couple of cloves of this. Of course you would only keep this in the refrigerator if it's peeled and wrapped, right? Last but not least, peppercorns, which you definitely would not keep in here—about a teaspoon will do. And we've got ...

2 medium yellow onions
2 ribs celery
2 carrots
parsley stems
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. peppercorns

M: Alton.
AB: ... [sigh] Don't worry, sis. We'll have you off my sofa and out of my house in no time.

    [backs up from the refrigerator and all of the items are already assembled in a bowl] Hey, I like TV work, don't you?
    Okay, here we go. We've got our vegetables aside and it's about time to give this a turn. If it sticks a little bit, don't be surprised. [shows the cooked side of the meat] That's what we're looking for. This needs to look like that. So give everything a roll. And don't move it around. Once you've got it flipped leave it alone. This isn't a sauté, okay? Searing is a different process and it does take a little bit of time. But, doing it in two shifts will still be faster than if you tried to put everything in at once.
    Now, the final batch of meat has browned quite nicely. Everything's out of the pot but there's a good bit of fat in there and you know what? There's no reason to actually eat that stuff. So, paper towel and just swab up [the bottom of the cooker] as much of the fat as you can get. We don't what to get all of the browned bits because that's flavorful. But this stuff we don't really need. There. And we'll just get rid of that.
    Okay. Everybody back in the pot, juices and all. Everything. Good. Vegetables in the pot. Carrots in the pot. Believe me, there's no need to be nice with this. Everything back. Okay, once you've got everything in the only thing left is water. Filtered is always best.

AB: [is handed a pitcher of water] Thank you very much.

    Now this is important. You want plenty of water, but you never want to come up more than two thirds up the side of the pressure cooker. Now most models even have a little line right inside that says maximum fill line. Okay, the reason for this is all about physics, okay? If there's not room inside for steam to generate, there won't be any pressure. And if there isn't any pressure, the pressure cooker won't work and we won't get her outta here. So, bring this to a boil as quickly as possible.

Never fill a pressure cooker over 2/3 full.

M: [flipping around on TV] Alton. Don't you get any premium channels?

    By the time the water's hit a boil, you'll notice a foamy, soap-like scum has accumulated on top of the water. Now, that's exactly the stuff that's, uh, you see floating on waves at a windy day at the beach. It's just protein. But, it does need to go. Not so much for the soup but because the foam could eventually rise up and plug up the underside of the pressure valve here which wouldn't be a very good thing. It wouldn't lead to an explosion or anything but it could throw off the cooking time. Just get most of that off of there. There we go.
    Now it's time to fit and lock the lid. How this works on your cooker depends on the design of your cooker. So please, read the instructions. But there's almost always going to be some kind of twisting and a locking like that. And there's always going to be a catch on the handle.
    Okay. Set your timer for 50 minutes but do not commence countdown until you've reached full pressure here. How you going to know?


The first steam engine was based on a pressure cooker.

The Den & Kitchen

M: Alton, are you making a career of that broth?
AB: What's that? Oh, I'm sorry. I can't hear you over all of this steam. Be in touch later.

    Heh, heh. It's got all kind of benefits.
    Now this is what high pressure looks and sounds like. But in fact, this is too much pressure because you can see this little doodad which is there to make sure this doesn't get over 15 psi is throwing a lot of stuff up into the atmosphere. And if it's going out there, then it's not down there anymore. So, turn the heat down just to medium-low. What you want here is to keep your jiggler barely jiggling, your hisser barely hissing, and your popper barely popping, just enough to maintain that 15 psi. Now that the pressure is on, you may commence your countdown.
    Fifty minutes is up and just before we kill this, listen. That is exactly what you should be hearing out of almost any pressure cooker during the cooking process. Just a bare hiss. Now normally, I would have turned this off about 10 minutes before the cooking was over and then just let the natural heat inside carry over for about the next 20 minutes. That way the food will be done at the same that the pressure would be released. But I'm ...

M: Alton.

... I'm a little tired of playing this nurse routine. So we're going to do this the fast way. Now for most modern pressure cookers there is a quick pressure dump valve. But please always be on the handle side when you do this.


    Now if you don't have a modern pressure cooker you've still got a problem to deal with. So you've got your grandma's, do what she did which is carry this right to the sink. Carefully, please, place in the sink and run cold water over the cooker. Since hot goes to cold the heat will move out of the cooker and go off down the drain. It'll probably take about 5 minutes for this. Do not open the lid before that.

    Now the pressure may have abated, but there's still plenty of heat in here. So, when you crack the hatch stand back for safety. There. Now look at that. In just 50 minutes we managed to get a thick, meaty, gelatinous broth. If we tried to do that in an open pot, it would have taken anywhere from 6 to 8 hours I promise you. Now, time to strain. Get a good grip and just strain it through a big colander into a big pot.

5 minutes later

    Now you can tell that these solids have given there all because we've got a lot more liquid now than we did back in the start. All the same, there could be some goodness still lurking about. So we better apply the squeeze just to make sure we can get it all. Now this may look like a strange ritual but I like it. Now a lot of cookbooks will recommend that you kind of squeeze on this with the back of a ladle. I think that's about as convenient as, you know, digging a whole with a bowling ball. I like to just give it all a really good squeeze. There.
    Now, these goodies have given their all. So, um, you can either feed them to your compost heap* or to your dogs.

AB: [whistles] Here you go, boy.

    Of course, we still have to strain that again. It's still way, way chunky. [to camera] Over here. Over here.

    Now for that you could use this device. This is a fine mesh wire strainer. The French call this a chinois**. I call it a rip off because normally these go for anywhere from 60 to 90 dollars. The reason this one is so nice and clean is because I don't actually own it. I borrowed and I'm taking it back later.

    Instead of this I like to use a 90 cent piece of cheese cloth just pinned in to a colander. Either of these will do a good job but let's review 90 dollars, 90 cents. It's your money, spend it however you like. Now, just pour this right back through the cheesecloth. Nice and slow. It's probably going to take a little bit of time to work its way through there. But its going to get all of that particulate mater out of there so its going to be nice and clear.

To completely de-fat a broth, refrigerate it overnight,
then simply lift off the solid layer of fat in the morning.

The Kitchen

    Now our broth may be packed with meaty goodness and it may have a great body, but it doesn't have a lot in the way of seasoning. If you think back, the only salt we've added to this was what we put on the meat way back when we were first searing. So we're going to have to look into that. Also I want to make sure that whatever fat has accumulated in a separator doesn't go into the bowl.

gravy separator

    Okay, before adding anything, always give it a taste. All right, needs a little salt. Not a lot but a little. You could use sea salt or, of course, ... you know. Just a pinch. Now the other thing that pressure cook foods almost always need is a little additional acid. See, the extra high temperatures in a pressure cooker tend to deaden the bright flavors of food, kind of make them a little bit muddy. So, uh, I always hit things with either a little lemon juice or, in this case certainly my sister could use it, a little bitty shot of either sherry or Madeira.

lemon juice, sherry or Madeira

    Last but not least, garnish. Who needs it. Soups up.

AB: Here you go, sis.
M: Mmmmm. [tastes] Umm. That is so good. It's just like I'm drinking a steak. Ah. I feel much better already.
AB: I am so glad, Marsha.
M: Um, hm.
AB: I'll get your coat.
M: Mmm. Um, hm. [dials phone]

     Behold the power of a simple broth. And the culinary time machine that made it possible. Two hours ago that woman was at death's door. Now she's getting ready to walk out of mine under her own power. I can't ask for more than that.
    Of course, we didn't have to stop with the broth. I mean, once you've got a pressure cooker in hand, there are a lot of other culinary comforts that fall within your range. I mean, you could cook just about any soup you can name, stews, chilies, even those traditional long cookers, grains and dried beans, fall within your hurried grasp.

M: [talking on the phone] ... No, really. Come on over. We've got an entire full pot. Yeah. Absolutely. No. Well, there's no garnish, yet, of course, but we can fix that another time.

    So, I hope we've inspired you to cook under some of your own pressure. What the heck. There's plenty of it to go around, might as well turn some of it into good eats.

M: Alton, crackers. No, no. Bread. Yeah. Bread. You've got bread?

    See you next time.

Proof Reading help from Jon Loonin.

*Adding any animal products (meat, bones, grease, dairy, etc.) to a compost heap isn't recommended.

**Chinois is French for "Chinese"

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010