Time Saving: the *NEW* Campbell’s Stock

A good stock is something that is invaluable in the kitchen and makes everyday cooking faster, easier, and infinitely more delicious. I grew up in a house where my Dad made his own everything and wouldn’t dream of purchasing a commercial stock.  I can understand that, because 30 odd years ago commercial stocks were largely reminiscent of yellow, salty water.  For my part, I do try to make my own stock when I can, but there are a few reasons that these days I also use stock from a box:

  • I rarely have the foresight to thaw my stock in advance, and in the middle of cooking dinner I’m far too lazy (or unable) to wait 12 minutes while the 2 L container thaws slowly in the microwave.
  • My freezer is already bulging at the seams and space is at a premium.
  • I consume far more stock and broth than you would imagine…..
  • There are some genuinely good quality stock and broth options out there that I don’t use out of desperation, I use them out of desire.

The ones that I’m excited to tell you about today, which are officially “Tina Tried and Favorited”, are the new Campbell’s chicken, beef and cream stocks, from the Stock First line, which launched July 2012. As you may have noticed, I prefer not to tell you about products that I don’t really enjoy, so when I do a product review at least you know that it comes from the heart. These, my friends, are totally my newest Time Saving Trick.

A few weeks back, Mike and I were invited to a special dinner in the Campbell HQ to sample a variety of dishes that illustrated the versatility of these stocks. I readily accepted, and….brought a baby. To a PR event. Yes folks, I am *that* person. Thankfully, the little lamb was in good form and let everyone enjoy the quiet and intimate dinner put out by Chef Suman of the Campell test kitchen (pictured on right) without interruption.

Chef Suman prepared seven delicious dishes for us over the course of the 90 minute meal, and although some of the prep work had been done in advance, the vast majority or the cooking was done live and in-the-minute. If nothing else, that should speak volumes to you about how valuable these flavorful stocks can be as a time saver for the busy home cook.

My favorite part about the test kitchen was that it was located in the “office end” of the actual Campbell’s factory. How cool is that? If it hadn’t been for the wee one on my hip, I would have been begging for a tour.

So…I will fully cop to the fact that I didn’t really know that there was a difference between “chicken broth” and “chicken stock”, and historically I tended to use the two interchangeably.  Many of us do, in fact, but to be more accurate, a broth is made from stewed meat, vegetables and aromatics. A stock is made from all of the above as well as the bones, so it tends to be darker, richer and more flavorful. This is certainly the case for the Campbell stocks, which have a much stronger flavor than the weaker chicken and beef broths.

Now what about this cream stock, huh? I had never heard of such a thing, but essentially it is like a thinner version of a cooking cream which has already been seasoned and lightly flavored with aromatics like garlic and onion.  You may like the cream stock because it is convenient, will  not scald or burn, and is perfect to make a sauce in seconds. For my part, I like the cream stock because there are only 45 calories in a quarter cup!

And as for the big question that a lot of you are going to be asking, yes: the stocks are much lower in sodium than their former brothy counterparts were.  That’s important to me, and although there are no specifically low-sodium options in the stocks right now, I can still feel better about using them from a health perspective.

Before getting too far into the tasting of the meal, one of my fellow diners and I requested to taste the stock on it’s own. After all, that’s the true litmus test.  If I’m going to use a ready made stock, I want it to be robust and flavorful without being overly salty. The chicken stock tasted much richer and more like chicken than the traditional Campbell’s broth. It was flavorful enough that I could easily drink this as a clear soup if I was feeling under the weather, but without feeling my fingers instantly swell from all the sodium. Check and mate. The cream stock was light and thinner than I was expecting, which was nice, and it had a savory flavor that made me instantly start plotting all the things I could do with it.

Now then, to see the true versatility of these stocks, scroll down and I’ll show you what Chef Suman made for us.

The first course was a scallop which had been lightly seared and then poached in the cream stock, with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Mixed greens with dried fruit, nuts and goat cheese in a creamy citrus and cilantro vinaigrette, using the cream stock.

Cod filet which was pan braised in the chicken stock, in a puttanesca sauce over a bed of Moroccan spiced couscous which was hydrated with the chicken stock.

Creamy and decadent (yet surprisingly healthy) mushroom risotto, cooked with the chicken stock and finished with a splash of the cream sauce for extra richness.

Harvest vegetable ragout, made with the chicken stock and served in a bread bowl. For a meatless entree, this was incredibly satisfying.

Beef tenderloin medallions in a mustard and mushroom sauce, made with the beef stock and served over potatoes whipped with cream stock. I could have eaten a pot of those potatoes.

Finally, for dessert, the dark horse that surprised everybody: a bittersweet caramel and espresso flan made with the savoury cream stock and served with macerated berries on the side.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the Campbell’s cream stock recipes or the chicken and beef stock recipes!

At the end of the event, we were sent home with a bag of goodies including a variety of the stocks – and some bibs, spoons and a sippy cup for Harlowe (How sweet and thoughtful was THAT?). In the time since the event, I have already managed to use most of it up. One container of chicken stock went in a pan with some ginger, garlic, chili and star anise to poach fish, and the other was used for braised chicken thighs with sweet peppers. The cream stock made an appearance in a lower fat alfredo sauce with ham, sweet potato and broccoli rabe, and the beef stock was purposed in a  super fast and richly flavored beef vindaloo.

I have my eye on the bit of cream stock which is remaining for some scalloped yams later this week, and all of the stocks have made it through to my grocery list for the next time I shop.  I will absolutely be buying them again.  You know, I wouldn’t endorse a product that I didn’t truly enjoy and support, so here’s to hoping that you like the assorted stocks and give them the same thumbs up as we do!

  • MQ

    I keep walking by these in the grocery store wondering if I should try them… now I will! (And on a side note my friend, Brooke, wrote a book with Suman (!) called
    From Pemmican to Poutine: A Journey Through Canada’s Culinary History.)

    • Tina

      How cool is that??!? I would like to meet this Ms. Brooke!

  • Lauren

    I too have been wondering about these every time I’m at the store (especially the cream one)…good to know they’re worth a shot!