Buying Stocks -- Recs in LA
Does anyone have a strong recommendation on pre-made meat stocks in town -- something that would stand up to a homemade version for a dish depending on a strong stock? (i.e. risotto)
Any specific suggestions would be much appreciated.
If you wind up resorting to the stuff in the boxes from the grocery store, your best bet is the Swanson's Natural Goodness chicken broth. Over Thanksgiving, I did my own personal taste test of the following: Swanson's Natural Goodness, Swanson's Certified Organic, Trader Joe's Organic Free Range, and Trader Joe's non-organic Free Range.
Natural Goodness was the best: the most chicken-y of them all. The second best was probably the TJ's Organic Free Range. While not as chicken-y, the mirepoix flavors cearly stood out. The Swanson's Organic was OK, but the flavor just wasn't as strong. The other TJs offering brought up the rear, and I really wouldn't recommend it.
re: Jack Flash
I personally prefer "Better than Bullion", as it is a paste that allows you to determine the stength yourself. It is extemely chinckeny with plenty of aromatic veggies and not toooo salty. I think it even got good marks on America's Test Kitchen tatse test (for what thats worth). ALL canned boths/jarred pastes suck... but BTB sucks less than most!
You can also get beef soup base as well as demi-glace concentrate from soupbase.com, which sells the Minor's brand - the same that you can get at Surfas. I would go to Surfas first.
For the boxed stock, I like the Imagine brand. It's a bit expensive but should be available at Ralphs, Gelson's, etc. A lot of restaurants use the Minor's soup stock, however.
Surfas, in Culver City, is probably your best bet. This place is a fantastic resource for all your hard-to-find food and kitchen needs (it's the best restaurant supply house in town, and thank goodness it's open to the public).
Just ask one of the knowledgeable staff people there for a recommendation on stocks.
I don't know about LA, but in OC I know of a place (a butcher, basically) who makes his own stock and sells it. You might find something similar in LA. Perhaps first try to find out, (by asking friends, etc.) where you can buy veal bones. When you find a place that sells veal bones, I bet they make and sell stock.
Alternatively, you can make your own. For chicken, I usually use frozen backs and necks from other whole chickens I've cooked, and sometimes wings or wingtips, which are cheap and full of collagen, and therefore make good stock. If you've never made stock, the trick is to start with cold water, and never let it reach a full rolling boil, otherwise it will be irrevocably cloudy. And don't salt it, because you want to be able to control the salt level at the very end in execution--which might be reducing it, dilluting it, whatever--so don't salt it until the end.
As far as the boxed-canned stuff, 'Kitchen Basics' is okay, as is the organic stuff at Trader Joe's.