Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cooking from Scratch, Part II: Cream Soups and Broths

Read Part I: Beef Stew and Cooking from Scratch here.

I hope to post on cooking with honey and whole wheat flour tomorrow, Lord willing. For now I'll address cream soups and broths.

Mrs. B asked:

Is there a particular cookbook that you like that has SIMPLE home-style recipes? (Alot of cookbooks these days have weird stuff in them).

I haven't found many cookbooks that I really like, and I would love any recommendations others can give. I mainly find my recipes online or get them from other people. I have greatly enjoyed one cookbook I picked up at a yard sale last year. It is called Old-Fashioned Home Baking, published by Better Homes and Gardens. Oodles of recipes from scratch: different breads, breakfasts, desserts, etc. The apple ladder loaf in the book is so good! The Joy of Cooking is also a good staple to own. I have a collection of cookbooks from yard sales and usually find one or two good recipes per book that I end up trying and liking. I figure a few dollars for one or two recipes is well worth it.

I have not experimented a great deal with substituting other products for canned cream soups, as I mainly find new recipes instead.

Mrs. N suggested using a white sauce (recipe found in any basic cookbook) as a substitute for cream soups:
It is very easy and economical to substitute a basic white sauce for cream of
mushroom/celery/chicken soup. It is just flour and milk cooked together until
thick. You can make it by first making a roux which is equal parts butter and
flour cooked together in a pan (usually 2 Tbs each) and then whisking milk into
it. Most of the time I don't go to that much trouble and just thicken the milk
with flour and add my favorite seasoning. Easy.

White sauce is actually what was used for centuries before The Great Campbell's Soup Takeover. Some of you ladies who took home economics in middle or high school may remember being taught how to make a white sauce because it is "the base for so many dishes". Only thing is, most people don't make those dishes anymore, or just make similar ones with canned soups. A classic cookbook like Joy of Cooking still has recipes with white sauce.

I have used a recipe for chicken flavored white sauce in a recipe for enchiladas, and it was delicious. The lady who wrote the recipe said the sauce can be substituted for an equal amount of undiluted cream of chicken soup. Here is the recipe:

Chicken Flavored White Sauce

3/4 c butter
3/4 c flour
4 c chicken broth
1 t salt (if broth is unsalted)
1 c dry milk powder (optional)

In saucepan melt butter. Add flour and stir. Add broth, salt, and milk powder. Stir with wire whisk. Cook until thickened.

Chicken broth is an excellent addition to recipes like the one above, and gives flavor without sacrificing health. I started experimenting with homemade chicken broth 3 years ago, at the same time I started buying and cooking whole chickens. My first attempts were very weak at best :(. I learned the hard way that ingredients like carrots, celery, onion, and herbs and spices really were helpful for achieving a tasty broth.

When I make chicken broth, I normally put two large chickens (5-6 pounds) in a large stockpot and cover them with water. Turn the burner on (eye for those in the South ;) ) to high. Meanwhile cut up a few stalks of celery (leaves are especially flavorful) and a few carrots and add to broth for flavor. Onion is also a good addition. When the water comes to a boil, skim off the scum that rises to the top and turn burner to medium low. Add various seasonings or spices: salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg, parsley, bay leaves. Salt really adds flavor, but don't overdo it. Thyme is good, but can be overpowering if used in excess. Nutmeg is definitely my favorite flavoring for any chicken dish.

I let the chickens cook until they test done with a meat thermometer. I remove carrots, celery, bay leaves, etc., and take the chickens out of the broth and debone the chicken, saving the meat for future use. After cooling and deboning the chickens, I return the carcasses to the broth for extra cooking. I think this extra simmer really helps add flavor. I have also found that simmering uncooked chicken (broth) gives better flavor then simmering a chicken carcass (stock), although both is preferred if possible. If the broth is too watery it can always be reduced by cooking it down to a lower volume. Obviously with 2 chickens I get a lot of broth in one go-around, so I freeze most of it in gladware for future use.

Here is one of my favorite from-scratch recipes. I found this chicken pie recipe on the internet, titled "Rachel Lynde's Chicken Pie." How fun, since I love Anne of Green Gables :). It has become a family favorite. The sauce made for the filling could easily be used for other recipes as well, perhaps in place of cream of chicken soup. The sauce is made with a basic roux (fat and flour, cooked together) with chicken broth whisked into it. This chicken pie recipe is genuine comfort food :). Mmmm, good.

Chicken Pie

Filling:
4 c chicken broth (I use homemade)
3 carrots, cut into bite size pieces
2 potatoes
2 cut-up ribs of celery
2 1/2 c cubed cooked chicken
1 onion, chopped
3/4 stick butter

6 T flour
1/4 t each, thyme and nutmeg
parsley to taste

Biscuits:
2 c flour
2 1/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
6 T butter or shortening
1/2 c grated cheddar
2 eggs
approximately 1/2 c milk

Filling Directions: In a saucepan, bring broth to a boil, add vegetables and cook on med low uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Transfer vegetables to large bowl with slotted spoon, reserving broth, and add chicken to vegetable bowl. In separate pan cook onion in butter over med low heat, stir in flour, and stir 3 min. Add 3 c reserved broth in a stream, whisking. Bring mixture to boil. Add thyme, and simmer sauce, stir occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in spices, then pour sauce over chicken mixture, stirring gently until just combined. Transfer to greased 9x13 glass baking dish. Filling may be made 1 day in advance if covered and chilled, or further in advance if frozen. My family likes to double or triple the filling, and freeze the extra in ziploc bags.

Crust Directions: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in shortening to resemble coarse meal. Add cheddar and toss mixture. Into measuring cup, break 2 eggs and add enough milk to measure 3/4 c total. Beat mixture with fork. Add egg mixture to flour, stirring to form dough. Roll out on floured surface. Cut out rounds and place over chicken mix. Bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until filling bubbles and biscuits are cooked and golden.

1 comment:

Mrs.B. said...

This sounds yummy and thanks for the tips!