Get the Most Out of Your Leftovers with These 3 Hearty Stocks

Alexis deBoschnek, author of ‘To The Last Bite,’ teaches us how to turn shrimp shells, corn cobs, and parmesan rinds into flavorful brews.

Excerpted from TO THE LAST BITE by Alexis Deboschnek. Copyright © 2022. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Homemade stocks are the backbone of restaurant-quality meals. They add that little extra something, a hidden super flavor that diners can’t quite put their finger on.

But in addition to livening up dishes and bringing down costs, making your own stock is one of the best ways to stretch your ingredients further, transforming scraps into something entirely new and useful.

“If you have the time, the flavor is truly unparalleled,” says Alexis deBoschnek, author of To The Last Bite, which debuted on April 19 “The other day, I made a stock with a ton of ginger and a bit of turmeric. I was feeling a little sick, drank it for three days for breakfast, and was like, ‘Oh, the stock has cured me!’”

DeBoschnek grew up making stocks with her mother, the master gardener and home cook who designed the family’s expansive vegetable and herb garden in the Catskills in upstate New York. “We were really a family—not just a family, but a whole community—dedicated to reusing, repurposing, and taking advantage of our natural bounty,” she says.

The veteran recipe developer and viral video host (notably of BuzzFeed Tasty’s “Chef Out of Water” series) has compiled this passed-down knowledge in her latest cookbook, featuring over 100 recipes that riff off of one another, allowing readers to maximize leftover ingredients.

While To the Last Bite celebrates sustainable cooking, it is not technically a zero waste cookbook. “I tend to feel intimidated with those kinds of books. There’s something about them that can feel unattainable, shameful, and honestly kind of hard,” she explains. “So I really tried to encourage people to be more conscious, but in ways that felt easy and approachable, with recipes that they could actually get excited about.”

The final chapter, “To the Last Bite: Stocks, Quick Pickles, Syrups and More” provides a number of creative ideas, like turning soon-to-rot fruits into shrubs, or making bread crumbs out of stale loaves. The crowning glory, though, is an index of stock recipes.

While most people are probably familiar with versions made from chicken bones, deBoschnek also focuses on less traditional concoctions, like stocks made out of leftover corn cobs, shrimp shells, and even parmesan rinds.

The shrimp stock, which comes together in just about 30 minutes, is the easiest of the bunch. “You don’t need a ton of shells to get a lot of flavor,” deBoschnek says. “If you’re making anything seafood-based—seafood stew, soup, etc.—it just adds that really nice, kind of nod to the ocean.”

When corn season rolls around, and you’re looking to preserve those sweet, buttery flavors, deBoschnek’s corn stock is a great way to make use of leftover cobs. Add it to any wintertime risotto, vegetable soup, or bean stew. “It feels like, ‘Ah, okay, summer’s not too far away,’” she adds.

“We were really a family—not just a family, but a whole community—dedicated to reusing, repurposing, and taking advantage of our natural bounty."

Parm broth offers that extra bit of umami, an obvious choice for any pasta. “Adding some to a ragout to thin it out, or even doing a brodo with pasta—having it in this brothy concentrated situation—are both great options,” deBoschnek says.

Perhaps the hardest thing to nail down is remembering to save your scraps when cooking. She recommends keeping a ziploc bag in the freezer—this way you have a dedicated space for tossing and can get excited about the stock to come.

Once the bag is filled up, stock-making day has arrived. At this point, you won’t have to do much prep, and precision will not matter. At the most basic level, you saute some aromatics and spices, add the scraps, and let it all sit in hot water for an hour or two. “You really want to simmer it to coax the flavor out, rather than just boiling and blasting and having everything fall apart,” deBoschnek says.

She also advises that you wait to salt until the end, after seeing how the flavor turns out. “If you’'ve heavily salted the chicken, for example, the carcass is going to impart the saltiness in the stock,” she says. While patience is key, be careful not to leave the stock on the stove all day. You’ll want to make sure that the liquid isn’t going down too much and you’re not scalding your pot.

You can usually tell when a stock is done by how concentrated the color is. Shrimp shells, for example, will turn bright pink, but you can also look out for the disintegration of any vegetables. DeBoschnek likes to keep her stock in deli containers—labeled by name and the date they were made—and store them in the freezer.

Keeping these simple guidelines in mind, you’ll never resort to store-bought stock again. “It’s just a really good, gratifying way to use up what you have,” deBoschnek says. “I always give myself a pat on the back afterwards.”

Shrimp Stock

Yield: 8 cups
Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 cups shrimp shells, from about 3 pounds of shrimp 1 lemon, halved
  • 5 sprigs parsley
  • 2 quarts cold water

Directions:
1. Add the olive oil to a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion, cut-side down, and cook without stirring until charred, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, bay leaf, salt, and peppercorns, and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells turn pink, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the lemon, parsley, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by one-fourth, about 30 minutes.
5. Place a large fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or two paper towels over a large bowl and strain the stock, discarding the solids. Let the stock cool to room temperature before using. The stock keeps fresh in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or frozen for 3 months.

Corn Stock

Yield: 6 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds 6 corn cobs, kernels removed 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 Parmesan rind

Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion cut-side down and cook, without moving, until charred, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, peppercorns, and coriander seeds, and cook until the garlic is golden brown, about 1 minute. Add the corn cobs, water, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 1 ½ hours.
3. Place a large fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or two paper towels over a large bowl and strain the stock, discarding the solids. Let the stock cool to room temperature before using. The stock keeps in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or frozen for 3 months.

Parmesan Broth

Yield: Makes 4 cups
Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Parmesan rinds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 quarts cold water

Directions:
1. Add the Parmesan rinds, salt, peppercorns, and water to a large pot and set over medium-high heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the broth reduces by half and turns golden, stirring often to make sure the rinds don’t stick to the bottom, about 1 ½ hours.
2. Place a large fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or two paper towels over a large bowl and strain the stock, discarding the solids. Let the stock cool to room temperature before using. The stock keeps fresh in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or frozen for 3 months.

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Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Food & Drink team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram