By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
It’s been an eventful beginning to the new year already. I’d barely stashed the Vegas juicer before my January calendar brought one of my favorite Diana Ross melodies, “Stop in the Name of Love,” to the front of my mind. I’d promised myself a gentler and more thoughtful outlook for me 2017. You know, more time for yoga and meditation (and a beauty regiment that went deeper than washing that red wine stain from my lips before bedtime).
While I had every intention of slowing down, life just keeps happening. My girls have often said I have two speeds (not only when driving but also for life in general): high and low, and low is for reserved for parking (or sleeping). So while I had good intentions, there is much to be done: the Women’s March this Saturday, a Valentine’s Day cookie class to organize, a baby shower to plan and host, a week-long business trip to Seattle and a trip with Ryanne, to Florida, to check in on an ailing relative.
I mentioned to Ryanne that I am planning to prepare a big batch of healing Bone Broth to bring along on our trip, to which she immediately countered, “Seriously, Mother, you just had a huge issue with a chunk of cheese on a recent flight, please don’t bring food.” I reassured my oldest child (and the one with the least amount of faith in me) that it will be stashed away in my checked luggage. She didn’t even think that was a good idea, but she forgets that I spent years as a private chef, flying across the country with partially-prepared meals, rarely with incident.
I’m not lying when I say I miss most of the exhilaration of life as a private chef (but not flying into unfamiliar cities, late at night, spending the next two to four hours lost, while challenging the validity of the navigational device installed in the rental car). I’d spend whole days shopping in specialty markets, finding roasts with perfect ribs for capping with frills, five kinds of onions for a French stew and exotic fruits, free from blemish, to garnish the morning pasty tray.
Usually my days would begin at 5 a.m., preparing homemade scones, cinnamon rolls or a brioche, and by 8 a.m. I’d be spooning perfectly poached eggs over salmon hash. Then it was on to prep work for a two or three course lunch, followed by a much anticipated two- or three-hour break (that too often turned into a market run). By 4 p.m., I was back in the kitchen (or train galley) making hors d’oeuvres while simultaneously stirring, whisking and tasting everything that would become a five to seven course- plated dinner. Once dessert had been artfully plated and served, I’d move onto breakfast prep for the following day, and about midnight I’d fall into my fancy Frette linen-covered bed for a four-hour respite from food. Then I’d get up and repeat the process.
Usually these assignments lasted about a week to ten days (my longest stint was 22 straight days) and that’s about all a body can take. It may sound like a brutal schedule, but the job came with some real highs (travel, huge tips, and great pantry staples) and a few lows (holidays and second wives).
Though I’ve gotten used to a softer, more community-centric life, if it weren’t for all the little people who adore my holiday presence, I might still be a private chef. For the past few years that life had mostly taken a back-burner until a recent phone call from a favorite past client, with a newly-built family estate in NW Montana. Would I come and cook for a week this summer, he inquired? I couldn’t say yes fast enough! It’s close enough to make the logistics manageable and mentally, I’ve already started planning the menus. Not even Ryanne’s incredulousness that I would take a coveted weeks’ vacation from my real job to go and cook for sixteen hours a day has quelled my enthusiasm. And I realize it’s more than the menus or money. Preparing foods for others is my truest passion and the greatest gift I can share.
Now it’s time to write my proverbial letter to TSA. Because I’m taking stock. You needn’t travel any farther than from the stove to the refrigerator with yours, but do take the time to make a batch of Bone Broth. It’s good for what ails you or anyone else on your love list.
BONE BROTH RECIPE – Yield 2.5 quarts
It’s worth the time and effort – don’t skip any of the three steps: blanch, roast and simmer. Produces a wonderful rich stock/starter for all your favorite soups (especially French Onion). Marrow and knuckle bones will produce the richest stock.
• 4 pounds beef bones
• ½ bunch celery, coarsely chopped
• 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
• 1 head of garlic, peeled
• 1 bunch of fresh herb stems (such as
parsley, cilantro, and/or thyme) or
a dried bouquet garni
•Preheat oven to 450°. Roast bones on a heavy baking sheet for 45 minutes, carefully remove from oven, drain fat and cool (there will be a lot of HOT fat, and bones, use caution here).
•Transfer bones to a large pot and cover with 3 qts cold water. Add all vegetables, herb stems, bay leaves, and pepper, bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, skimming any residual fat and foam from surface, until caramel colored and flavorful, about 3 hours. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids.
•Stock can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill, or you can freeze for 3-4 months.