I mentioned a few posts ago that I had run out of chicken broth. I was going through the freezer and fridge while I made up my menu for the week and did find 1 cup of chicken broth. My menus are always a goal, something to aim for, and a source of inspiration when it’s 6pm and I suddenly break free from the computer because the children are making noises about food again. They are not set in stone, however. But I do try to look at using up some of what I’ve got, look at what’s on sale, and experiment with something new. Not necessarily in that order.
I was also browsing through a few magazines from last year, Taste of Home and Gourmet actually. And I saw a chicken-corn chowder recipe that sounded good. It was appealing partially because I’d bought a butternut squash last week to experiment with and then not done anything and this soup had some in it (although I’m now left with half a butternut squash in the fridge if you’ve got some good ideas to share). At the store I was pleased to see some chicken broth on sale for 33 cents a can, which should have been 16 ounces but was of course 15.5 ounces since they shrunk the cans a few years ago. (Like a 2×4 that isn’t a 2×4 anymore!) I bought a few cans thinking to augment my homemade broth (I need 4 cups of broth for the soup), but then once I was unpacking the groceries it occurred to me that chicken broth was a pretty good staple to have in the pantry for emergencies. Mind you, I haven’t had any canned broth in the freezer in years but suddenly it seemed vitally important!
But I wanted to make this soup. I thought initially of just substituting water, since the soup was chock-full of vegetables and would probably have plenty of flavor anyway. But I decided to do a cheap and quick vegetable broth instead. In the freezer, I always have a container or freezer bag of vegetable bits to use for my chicken broth, usually the ends of carrots, celery tops, and onion peels and ends. (I also have a separate container for bits of leftover vegetables that I think would make a good kitchen-sink type soup.) I’d made mashed potatoes the other night and saved the potato water in an old pickle jar in the frig. So I pulled out the potato water and the vegetable container and began plopping bits of carrot, celery, and onion in about 8 cups of water (the potato water plus plain water). I added a few bay leaves, some salt, some thyme, and some peppercorns. Perused a few cookbooks and saw that if I’d had any zucchini, turnip, or leeks they would have made good additions (actually I do have leeks in the garden but didn’t feel like going outside and digging one up), and probably the longer you cooked it the better. But I simmered what I had while I started the rest of the soup and thawed the one lone cup of chicken broth.
I tasted the broth after 30 minutes or so, expecting it to be bland but was surprised by how much flavor was in it! It needed a bit more salt, which I added, and then I saw my glass of cheap white wine (Sea Ridge from Safeway, the $3 Chuck equivalent, but only the Chardonnay is worthy IMHO) and added a splash of that as well. I let it simmer a few more minutes, tasted again, and I took out what I needed to top off this soup recipe and let the rest simmer (after adding enough water to replace what I had removed) while the soup cooked. I’ll freeze this in one cup portions and may be a convert to using vegetable broth in many things.
The lesson here, to me, is to keep things simple. When I’d read about making vegetable broth before it seemed to involve copious amounts of vegetables I didn’t happen to have on hand, roasting said vegetables, then simmering for hours. This seemed like way more work than my simple chicken broth which I make when my bag-o-bones in the freezer reaches a certain size and I throw in whatever vegetable ends I’ve collected in my vegetable scrap container in the freezer. This was a very quick and dirty broth that had a substantial amount of flavor given I was using what most people tossed in the compost pile (or worse yet, in the garbage!) and was flavorful in the time I spent preparing the rest of the vegetables for this soup, which I’ll post later. I probably could have tossed a few chicken bones in there had I been desperate for some chicken flavor, or even a spoonful of chicken bouillon. But I didn’t, and it was really quite good.