Pet peeve: I can’t stand paying for water added to something that I can add water to myself provided I am in the vicinity of a water tap. For example, orange juice made from concentrate. I can buy the concentrate and add my own water, thank you.
Other examples: ready-made soups. Or various canned soups used as sauce. Or some kinds of broth. I suppose it is not too bad an idea to have chicken broth around in case you wake up some morning colossally unwell and nothing will do but a hot cup of chicken broth before you stumble back to bed.
I usually make all these things myself, the exception being good old tomato soup to have with a grilled cheese sandwich — fast, convenient, supreme comfort food.
You may have noticed here in this column the dearth of recipes with canned soups. It is because of this peeve of mine. I know though that some of you really appreciate the convenience of a ready-made item. So here are some homemade conveniences in case you would like to save a little money. I bet you’ll be surprised how easy and quick they are to make.
First, let’s make some homemade vegetable broth, so easy to do. Merely add a carrot, onion and celery to water, add a bay leaf, and boil. I often save potato boiling water and build the broth on that. Jazz it up with some garlic, substitute leeks for the onion, add some herbs such as parsley, marjoram and savory. Cook 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, drain through a sieve, and store it in a jar in the fridge. That is it. Really. I make it up in pint quantities and freeze it.
If you want a deeper flavor, oven-roast the vegetables in a little olive oil at 350 degrees F until the vegetables are cooked. Don’t heat the oven up on purpose to do this, but stick it in alongside some other thing you are baking.
Second, make some chicken broth. Whenever I have a roasting chicken, I put the neck and giblets into a heavy saucepan with an onion, a stalk of celery, a carrot and a bay leaf, and I simmer it, using some to baste the chicken as it roasts. Then I make gravy in the bottom of the roasting pan using the broth for the gravy. I put any broth that is leftover in a container to use later. I also save the carcass of the chicken and cook it slowly, barely covered with water, then strain it, capturing bits of meat for soup. Use the same vegetables as above. It sounds like I am wasting the vegetables but the cost of them is hardly anything compared with buying canned or packaged broth. If you don’t want to waste them, eat them.
Third, make a simple cream sauce. Most of you will know how to do this, but in case you are a newcomer to the kitchen, mix this up in a heavy pan instead of using canned cream of celery or chicken soup or the like. All you need is butter, flour, and milk or broth. If you a want a vegetable sauce, use the vegetable broth above; if chicken, use your own chicken broth, and so forth. If you make macaroni and cheese using a sauce, make a cream sauce with milk and grate into it the cheese of your choice, adding more milk if it becomes too thick.
If you would really like a bit of convenience, I’ve included a mix from the Extension service you can make to use whenever you want to whip up a sauce quickly. I noticed that the dried milk flavor came through, so I’d be inclined to season this with something that overcomes that. I made a good curry sauce out of it.
Yields 2 cups broth
2 cups water
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Herbs to taste
Combine and simmer until vegetables are tender. Strain for use.
Package of giblets and chicken carcass
1 stalk celery
Salt and pepper
Simmer all these together until the chicken carcass falls apart. Strain for use.
Yields 1 cup of sauce
2 tablespoons butter or melted fat
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup broth or milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a heavy pan, stir in the flour and cook until the flour looks frothy. Then whisk in milk or broth stirring until the sauce is smooth.
Cream Soup Substitute Mix
Yields 3 cups (for 9 recipes)
2 cups nonfat dry milk
¾ cup cornstarch
¼ cup instant chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
1 teaspoon dried crushed basil
½ teaspoon pepper
Combine and store in a jar with tight top. To use, mix 1/3 cup dry mixture with 1 ¼ cup cold water, cook and stir till thickened.
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