Thursday, November 29, 2007

Surprising Things I Use from My Pantry

A little over a month ago I was in Cleveland to hang out with those two wild and crazy gals and my sisters of heart, Lisa and Helen for a weekend of baking, drinking, eating, and laughing. One of the weird things that happened that weekend was I discovered that I have this "twin" thing with Helen.

We were scaring each other with all the stuff we eat, foods we like, way we cook, and life experiences we had that were exactly the same or so close it was eerie. Almost from the minute I got into Lisa's cute purple car at the airport, Helen and I were finishing each other's sentences and having "Twilight Zone" moments. I was pretty sure that if we kept at it Lisa was going to tie large rocks around our necks and toss us into Lake Erie!

One of the many delicious things we cooked together that weekend was an incredible pot of corn chowder from the contents of Lisa's pantry. We wanted a hearty soup to serve with grilled cheese sandwiches made with the Asiago Cheese Bread we helped Lisa make. Rummaging around Lisa's fabulously stocked pantry, kitchen and fridge we discovered she had some great bacon from one of the butchers in the West Side Market, 1/2 a can of corn from the fridge, two cans of creamed corn, some grocery store grated Romano cheese (bought by accident), and lots of fresh herbs from Lisa's indoor herb garden. All the perfect ingredients needed for a great pot of chowder!

It was while we were in the kitchen chatting and each adding ingredients to the chowder and tasting for correct seasoning that we got into a discussion on what store-bought chicken stock was our "go to" chicken stock when we didn't feel like making it from scratch. Without hesitation and at exactly the same time Helen and I said "Emeril's" and burst out laughing. I think Lisa rolled her eyes at us and started laughing with us...

My favorite boxed stock

Now before you delete me from your reader let me tell you why I love this stock and keep at least one or two boxes in my pantry. The ingredients are exactly the same ingredients I use when I make it from scratch: chicken, sea salt, chicken fat, carrot, celery, onion, parsley and garlic and spices. There is a little corn starch added to make it stable for shelf life but there is no MSG and no long unpronounceable words; nothing but natural ingredients. There are no metallic tastes or strange flavours that don't suggest chicken stock. This stock actually tastes and looks like chicken stock, complete with little bits of chicken meat floating around. One last thing, Emeril's Chicken Stock is low in sodium at less than 600mg of sodium per serving; pretty darn good for non low-sodium chicken stock.

So, why am talking about this today? Because I think sometimes as food bloggers and passionate eaters, we all get tied up in knots of guilt when we take short cuts and/or use products that the self appointed food snobs out there would vilify us for using, especially when it is a celebrity chef's product. Does this mean that I don't think you should make your own stock? No, all I'm saying is it's OK if you are too busy to make your own stock all the time. It's OK if you need to take a short cut or two to put a good dinner on the table when your night is crazy or you get home late from work. What matters is if you are going to use a short cut product, make good choices and pick the ones that taste good and contain the best ingredients!

Besides, it's hectic out there right now and wouldn't you rather have the time to bake more goodies for your care packages than stir a pot of stock?

Three Crazy Gals Chowder (Or Pantry Corn Chowder)

1lb bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp fresh sage
1 Tbsp parsley
2 bay leaves
4 large Yukon gold potatoes, diced
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 can regular corn (We used Green Giant Super Sweet Yellow and White Corn)
2 cans creamed corn
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup romano cheese
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Brown bacon in large frying pan. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add sage and parsley and saute for 30 seconds. Transfer contents of frying pan to stock pot. Add pototoes, and water and stock to cover potatoes. Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer. Add bay leaves, creamed corn and corn and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add cream and romano cheese. Cook for 15 minutes until thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 big bowl servings