Guilt drives us– and no where else does it hammer down on us than in the kitchen. We hate altering heirloom family recipes to accommodate more shortcuts and we are often dead-set to whip up a batch of some treasured family holiday meal, no matter what emotional of physical state we’re in. Aside from respecting tradition, we are also told in every cookbook to use the “best” of everything. Best vanilla extract. Best chicken. Best whatever. And it’s true advice– using the best individual ingredients does usually produce a better end result: the crisper and more flavorful roast chicken, the creamier ice cream, the more complex cocktail. But, we also feel guilt when we have to compromise when we have to use decidedly lower quality ingredients, just because we can’t find them or have the time to drive out to the organic, free-range chicken farm to cultivate a relationship with the chicken we plan to eat that night. No where else do we get more guilt than using canned chicken stock.
Chicken stock, like fine puff pastry dough, something that expert chefs takes years to perfect. It’s a very rich liquid made from slowly simmered meats and fortified with vegetables, all strained out in the end. The flavor of these perfect broths by some of these expert chefs is phenomenal on its own, yet indistinguishable from the whole dish when it’s added. Good stock can make the beef taste beefier or the vegetables more vegetable-y, without directly tasting the chicken. Needless to say, investing some time in simmering a good stock to use in your kitchen is well worth it.
Chicken stock is the basis of so many dishes and add delicious richness whenever it is used in place of water. But, not many of us have the time to let a large pot of it gently simmer for the required few hours. Yes, we can make it on a day off and freeze it for later use, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes I make and freeze it, sometimes I don’t. Yet, so many cookbooks and cooking shows tell us to use homemade pasta made in the best pasta maker! That’s where the guilt comes in– maybe I’ll just used canned; it’ll be fine, I guess…
The issue, then, isn’t the act of using canned– it’s the just using canned. The flavor of a good, rich stock is so important that it seems foolish to leave out if a big meal is being planned. However, if you are simply unable to find the time (or desire) to make a huge batch of homemade chicken stock, you may want to consider sprucing up the canned stock you can buy in the supermarket.
Canned stock is usually very simple and lacking much flavor aside from a vague chicken flavor. Yet, simmering it with a few vegetables and herbs makes a world of difference. Fortifying it with a little more flavor could not be easier and takes only a few minutes to prepare and a half hour for it to sit on the stove by itself. It’s well worth it to plan ahead next time you need some decent chicken stock– your tastebuds will not regret it!
Basic Chicken Stock from a Can
Stock is technically different than broth. Stock is very rich, whereas broth is actually a light soup. However, most companies use stock or broth interchangeably on the can and mean essentially the same thing. Avoid using canned stock/broths that contain tomato unless the dish you are adding the stock to contains tomato. I should note that this is a terrific shortcut, but I would also encourage everyone to try their hands at making a full-homemade stock at least once in their lifetime!
- 2 cans chicken stock (low or sodium free)
- 1/3 cup dry white wine (not a dessert wine)
- 1 small onion
- 1 small carrot (about 5-6 inches long)
- 1 stalk of celery
- 2 sprigs of parsley
- 2 sprigs of thyme)
- 3 whole black peppercorns
- 1 clove of garlic (optional)
- salt, to taste
Wash all the vegetables and peel away any very loose or dirty skin from the onion. Cut the ends off of the onions, but leave the skin on the sides if it isn’t dirty– the papery skin will release golden color into the broth. Cut the onion in half. Peel the carrot and cut in half along with the celery. Add everything to a medium saucepan and let simmer on low for about a half hour with the lid askew. Add the peeled clove of garlic if you want a slight garlic flavor in your final dish. While it’s simmering, if there is any fat in the stock that has now floated to the top, use a spoon to scoop it out and discard it. Don’t let the mixture come to a rolling boil, just a few smiling bubbles making their way up. Once it has simmered for about a half hour (you can let it simmer longer, if you’d like), pour the stock through a mesh strainer and into a large bowl. Squeeze the vegetables to get every drop (you can either discard the vegetables or top them with salt as a snack). Taste the stock and add salt as needed– it should taste delicious and well balanced on its own, like a soup you’d like to sip. Be mindful not to over salt. Return it to the saucepan if you need to reheat it and use it in any dish that needs a little extra body..
More recipes here: http://wannapasta.com/best-vegetable-spiralizer-noodle-maker/