By Liz Bares

 Soup, by nature, is easy but takes a certain amount of finesse to make it delicious. The very best way to make soup tasty is to make your own stock.

In culinary school, the first three weeks of class are dedicated to making stock. Broth and stock are seemingly interchangeable, but the biggest difference is that stock is typically made with bones (chicken, beef, fish) and broth is usually made with more meat. I use the terms interchangeably.

What you buy in the store is basically broth. You can flavor it up a bit by adding onions, peppercorns, parsley, carrots, celery, bay leaf and garlic. Then let it simmer a bit and your soup will have more flavor.

Homemade stock usually has a more gelatinous texture when cooled because of the gelatin released from the bones. I try hard to have homemade stock in the freezer for soup making. However, when in a pinch, store-bought low-sodium varieties are just fine.

I have been experimenting with making a roasted beef stock for a few months now and I think this one is the best. You will make this entire stock in your oven — no pan on the stove. You need beef bones, and I’ll admit they are difficult to find. You get about two quarts of stock out of this recipe. You can freeze stock for up to four months.

Roasted Beef Stock

4-6 pounds of beef bones

1 bay leaf (if using 6  pounds of bones, use two leaves)

1 head garlic (keep the paper on, just separate the cloves)

4-6 yellow onions, quartered (you can keep the paper on if you wish)

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

4-5 stalks celery, trimmed and chunked

A handful parsley (stems included)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-2 teaspoons peppercorns

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the bones into a large roasting pan. Roast them for about 40 minutes. Then take the pan out, shut the oven door, and turn the bones. To the pan, add onions, garlic, celery, carrots and tomato paste. Stir everything together. Place back in oven and roast another 40 minutes. Your veggies and bones should be a pretty brown by now. Roast a bit longer if not brown.

Once you are satisfied with the color, remove the pan from the oven and turn down the heat to 350 degrees. Add about 1 quart of water per pound of bones. So, 6 pounds would yield 6  quarts of water. Place your aromatics (parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf) in the pan now. Then place pan back into oven carefully. Roast for 4-5 hours. Gently stir everything together about every hour. You do not want the tips of bone to burn. Add water if necessary, you want to keep the water level pretty much the same throughout the cooking process.

Once the water is a golden color and the stock smells terrific, take it out of the oven. Gently ladle the stock into a heatproof bowl or pan. Place the entire bowl or pan in an ice water bath to bring the temperature down quickly.

Once the temperature has cooled to lukewarm, place the bowl of stock, covered, into the fridge for several hours. You will have a thin layer of fat on the top of the stock. Take that off. Place the chilled stock into containers and freeze, or use within 3 days.