Chicken broth (Recipe: chilled asparagus soup)
When is store-bought chicken broth better than homemade chicken stock?
I know. The answer is supposed to be never.
Or is it?
If you find a brand you like, and get to know its good points, and live miles and miles from a store, and don't want to raise your own chickens so you can turn one into chicken stock on a moment's notice, and if you tend to be a last-minute meal planner, and have a pantry large enough to keep a box or two of chicken broth in it at all times... well, under those circumstances, store-bought chicken broth is great.
What's the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth? Stock is made from bones (carcass, neck, wings), long-simmered to release the flavorful gelatin into the liquid; broth is made from meat, which gives a less rich taste. You can bump up the flavor of store-bought broth by adding carrots, onions, leeks, celery, fennel, bay leaf or herbs (thyme, parsley, chives) from your garden.
Taste several different brands to find one that works for you. (My absolute favorite remains Swanson 99% Fat Free. Great flavor, with not a hint of dish water aftertaste.) Remember that even the low-sodium store-bought broths are higher in sodium than homemade stock. When using store-bought broth, hold back on added salt in your recipe. You probably won't need it.
With chicken broth in your pantry, you can throw together orzo with parmesan and basil, chicken with roasted lemons, chicken pot pie, spicy tortilla soup, Thai cashew chicken or French onion soup in less time than it takes to make chicken stock from scratch.
Chilled asparagus soup
Thick and creamy, but made without cream, this is one of my favorite summer soups. Because I like to serve it cold, the saltiness of store-bought chicken broth enhances the flavor of the soup. If you make this with homemade stock, add salt as needed. Remember: when you serve something cold, it needs to be highly seasoned. Makes 6-8 cups.
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium russet potato, peeled, cut into chunks
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed, cut into thirds
6 cups chicken stock
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
In a stock pot, sauté the onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the potato chunks and asparagus, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are quite soft. Remove from heat. With an immersion blender set to "liquify" (or in batches in a blender), process the soup until it is smooth. If necessary (and it usually is not), thin to desired consistency with additional chicken stock or water. Season to taste with lots of black pepper. Serve hot or chilled.