Sourdough stew resembles a classic, simple meal: a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. Except in this case, the bread acts like a bone and sneaks into the stock pot. When you try this rich, chunky, slightly tart stew, you’ll be glad it did.
To make sourdough-bone broth, the bone and bread are treated equally, browning under the same broiler before being locked together in a vat of boiling water. The sourdough flavor impregnates the broth and everything in it while filling the air with the yeasty aroma of a microbrewery.
The bread proves almost as durable as the bone, slowly breaking down but never leaving. Pieces of bread remain in the broth like the egg drops in a bowl of egg drop soup. We could blend it all into a puree, but then we’d lose the delicate features of this comforting bowl of bone-and-bread broth.
For the tart sourdough flavor to assert itself, the bread you use must be a top-shelf loaf or baguette, not some off-the-rack clone from the back of the supermarket that was baked by some out-of-state company. Find the business that’s baking the best sourdough close to home and use its bread. My favorite is a local multigrain sourdough, which imparts a porridge-like quality to the soup.
Use red-meat bones, like beef or lamb, preferably with chunks of meat and gristle attached. Deer bones work great, too. Depending on your tastes, you’ll probably want to skim the fat. I find butter to be the most appropriate and “comfy” fat in a bowl of bread soup.
Use whatever cooking setup you would use to make bone broth. I use an electric pressure cooker, aka the Instant Pot, but you can make this in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. Your active time is about the same either way, but the slower methods take longer and burn more energy, while the Instant Pot is like going into hyperspace. Time speeds up inside the pressure chamber, allowing the food to travel great distances in short periods of time.
Makes four large servings
Brown the meat and bones under the broiler, turning often. For the last few minutes of browning, add the bread, either in whole slices or chunks. Turn the slices quickly so they don’t burn.
When the meat, bones and bread have browned all around, transfer the meat and bones to your cooking vessel and add enough water to cover everything by 2 inches. Crumble the toasted bread into the water as finely as possible. Add the cider vinegar and cook for an hour in the pressure cooker; about four hours on the stove, covered and on medium heat; or about 8 hours in the slow cooker.
Add the carrot, celery, onion, potato, thyme and wine. Cook for another half-hour in the pressure cooker, two hours on the stove or four hours in the slow cooker. Remove the carrot, celery and onion. Save the carrot for later.
Depending on how fatty the bones are, at this point you might want to allow the soup to cool for a spell, perhaps overnight, so you can skim the fat. You could do this after the first or second cooking.
Finally, slowly cook the soup down until the broth is mostly gone, stirring often and occasionally scraping off the starchy accumulation that tends to build up on the bottom. When it’s more chunky than brothy, it’s basically ready. About 20 minutes before serving, remove the bone, slice the soft carrots and return them to the soup. Season with whatever else strikes your fancy. Sometimes I even add soy sauce and pho seasoning cubes. If the soup tastes too lean, I add butter.
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