When I lived in Los Angeles, the transition from summer to fall was only noticeable when store displays shifted from flip-flops, float toys, and sunscreen to school supplies and Halloween decorations.
Here in the Sierra Nevada, it’s a different story. One morning last week my outdoor thermometer registered 39 degrees, and the markedly cooler temperature prompted a flurry of activity amongst animals and humans alike. Birds and squirrels scurried about collecting seeds and nuts; deer began migrating toward the high country; humans split and stacked firewood.
As the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, my thoughts turn to … soup. Literally. So in addition to stacking firewood, I also made and froze half a dozen batches of chicken stock as the base for a variety of hearty soups.
Years ago when my sons were small, I bought chicken wings and necks and gently simmered them with vegetables and fresh herbs for hours. But times have changed, and my life, like everyone else’s, has changed too. As Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of NPR’s food show The Splendid Table says, “the only people still making their own chicken broth are me and an eighty-year-old woman in Siberia.”
Instead of lamenting the passing of an era, Kasper and her producer Sally Swift have a solution: Cheater’s Homemade Broth. In essence, you add some umami superstars like wine, tomatoes, and garlic to canned chicken stock, and simmer it for 30 minutes. (Umami, known as the fifth taste, is found in many foods and boosts the flavor of everything it’s combined with.) With very little effort, you have stock worthy of that eighty-year-old woman in Siberia.
The recipe for Cheater’s Homemade Broth can be found here on The Splendid Table’s website, as well as in Kasper and Swift’s The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper, available on Amazon. The premise of the cookbook is that we can eat well, without fuss, even after dragging in from a full day at work. Most of the recipes feature a basic version with a number of possible variations; many rely on supermarket items such as roast chicken or canned tuna.
Fast, tasty food from your own kitchen—kind of hard to argue with that, right?. And if you don’t tell anyone the stock in your minestrone started life in a can, even that little old lady in Siberia won’t be able to tell.