Friday, January 16, 2015

One Great . . . pantry shortcut

In some circles, "Cream Of" soup is the worst thing you can say about a dish. Opening a can of Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken is a shortcut that's loaded with sodium and artificial ingredients, the very definition of glop.

But there's a reason it's such a common ingredient: Opening a can is an easy way to get a bechamel without cooking a roux.

Is there a way to get the best of both worlds? In the new book "The Southern Pantry Cookbook," author Jennifer Chandler includes a handy idea: "Cream Of" soup from scratch. You can make chicken or mushroom, and it makes just over a cup, the equivalent of one 10.75-ounce can of soup. Even better: You can control the sodium, lower the fat by using reduced-fat milk and there are no artificial thickeners. You can also make it when you need it.

Handy idea. Thanks, Jennifer.

Homemade Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

MELT the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the flour and cook, whisking, until it turns golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

CONTINUING to whisk, gradually add the milk and the chicken stock. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

VARIATION: For Cream of Mushroom, cook 1 cup finely diced mushrooms in the butter before adding the flour, milk and stock.

YIELD: 10.75 ounces, or just over 1 cup.