giving up chicken broth for good
Over the years I've lost my taste for most meat although I do eat red meat occasionally. Haven't eaten chicken in many years however and recently began wondering about giving up chicken broth and replacing it with vegetable broth. CI did an evaluation of chicken broth and basically declared all commmercial brands substandard. Can't remember where (MS?) but read a tip about using the ends of asparagus spears to make veg broth which I did, adding celery, onion and carrots. I make lots of soups and stews all year round. What do you think about using veg instead of chicken as the base? Will there even be a noticable difference? I think not and I'm ready to make the switch. I'd love your take on it, along with any tips on making good veg broth. Thanks!
For lots of applications, a good veg broth is at least as good as chicken broth! (The diff. is noticeable, esp. if you're used to very flavorful chickens-- maybe not so much if you use prepared chicken broth, which tends to be watery anyway)
I find that unless you're planning on using it for consomme, less imaginative is good, so you don't introduce overpowering veg flavors that will overwhelm or clash with the flavoring of its ultimate destination. As you say, lots of onions, celery, carrots, and parsnips do the trick. I take the trimmings of veggies while I'm cooking other things (onion cores from the end, that extra half-good but half-paper outer layer; celery leaves if i only need stalks; etc.), and toss them in a bag in the freezer. When it gets full enough, in they go into a stock pot, with some chopped up fresh guys to supplement to the needed amount.
I'd actually avoid asparagus, which has a strong flavor. Definitely avoid broccoli, and other members of the cabbage family, unless you are planning on using them in a soup that also involves the same thing.
For a broth that will serve as consomme in "chicken soup" contexts, I use extra carrots, and toss in a knob of peeled gingerroot in with the veggies while the broth cooks, and a bit of fresh dill while reheating (after the veggies are strained out).
A nice thing to do to pump up the flavour with a veg broth is to roast the veggies ahead of time. Carrots, parsnips, onions, whole garlic cloves especially do well with this method. Add lots of water, some fresh herbs - parsley, dill - whole peppercorns and whatever else strikes your fancy. I would avoid cabbage family for sure, but you could definitely add some winter squash chunks. And for a bit of extra meaty flavour, throw in some dried mushrooms.
When making veg broth, I find it's especially important to add enough salt to bring out the flavours - but not so much that all you taste is salt. And make sure it's well concentrated. Since there is no gelatine or collagen from meat or bone, you really need to have a strong flavour so that it doesn't taste like dishwater.
I agree with Nyleve...roasting,adding herbs and dried or fresh mushrooms for more of a meaty taste. You can also use some soy sauce and drizzle of oil to get a more full-mouth feel/taste.
Flesheater guests will definitely notice the lack of mouthfeel that meat provides in broth.
Vegetable broth is often too harsh in an attempt to overcome that liability: a common sin is far too many carrots.
Mushrooms, leeks, and shallots are your friends.
Since I have moved to Greece I have noticed that many supermarkets do not stock canned broth (however they always have bouillon). As a result, I have learned that if you are cooking with good produce from the start, broth can be superfluous in many dishes, and actually "muddies" the soups. I have found this to be especially true when cooking lentils and other legumes. Try not substituting chicken broth with anything but water, you will be pleasantly surprised.