Have I ever been in love with a boxed broth before this?
The International Food Bloggers' Conference brings food lovers, writers and photographers together with products we might like, and hopefully, share. Being a jaded consumer who generally prefers whole foods, I have to admit that many packaged foods are lost on me.
And yet, here I was on Friday night, tasting Aneto's pre-made, boxed chicken broth on a spoon and not believing my mouth. One savory spoonful led to another, and another. I checked the package for MSG. Nope. Just really well-made chicken broth--from Spain.
Then I tasted their rich paella base, which contains all the ingredients needed for a traditional, Valencian paella. We're talking rabbit, duck, ferraura beans, garrofon beans, snails(!), saffron, rosemary... this is the real deal. Only natural ingredients, made in thoughtful batches by this small company in Barcelona.
These two yellow broth boxes were like bars of gold in my fridge.
I had to go talk with the folks at Aneto, feeling curious about this small company that decided to reach out to us here in the states. I met Josep, Anna, and Núria and chatted with them about what it's like to work for Aneto.
A family-owned company that originally focused on producing Serrano ham, Aneto has been around since 1963. They decided to start making ham broth a few years ago, and that went so well that they turned to other flavors as well, such as chicken, vegetable, fish, and a number of bases for stews and paellas. Josep, Anna, and Núria all agreed that this small company of only 74 employees feels like family to them.
All three also regularly use the broth themselves. I asked each of them what their favorite broth is and how they liked to use it.
Núria's favorite is the chicken broth. She likes to use it to make Sopa Torrada, a Catalan bread soup with meatballs. She also just drinks the broth while cooking dinner or serves it on its own as part of dinner.
Anna, the avid cook of the group, suggested making a cream of courgette (zucchini) soup by sauteeing onion and zucchini together, pouring enough chicken broth to cover, and then pureeing it with an immersion blender.
Josep admitted that he does not cook very much, but told me that he used the paella base on a first date. "And she is my girlfriend still, so..." he shrugged. This cracked me up. The power of paella. Anyway, it seemed to me that these three charming people not only enjoyed their work at Aneto, but they like the broth as much as I do. Those lucky ducks, they have regular access to it.
I asked them a little more about the paella base. I wondered what the popular opinion of it was. You know? I was curious if, to Spaniards, a paella base would be the Spanish equivalent to a box of mac & cheese or, I don't know, Hamburger Helper. Anna said, for people who have paella 2 or 3 times a week, it's really helpful to have the base on hand. She explained that the base was a combination of two products, really. There was the broth itself and the sofrito, which is a whole process to make in and of itself. Oh yeah, good point! When I've made paella at home, it is a bit of a production. I start with that sofrito, which is often a combination of tomato, garlic, onion, and olive oil. This cooks down for awhile until it's almost burgundy in color. Having this step removed, along with having the broth already made, makes the paella base quite valuable.
But it's only valuable if it's delicious, right? Last night I made the quickest paella of my life.
Because I was way behind on dinner last night, I reached for that box of Spain in my fridge. Might as well try it now, right? In 25 minutes (mostly hands off) I had a pretty authentic-tasting paella. Was it as complex and smoky as the more labor intensive version with your own sofrito and all the little details of love you can put into a paella? No. However, it was absolutely impossible to stop eating. I was able to achieve a bit of soccorat, the caramelized bits at the base of the pan, but not as much as when I've made it from scratch.
No matter! I must get my hands on more of this broth and paella base. They absolutely have a place in my pantry, especially when I'm in a hurry. If you're curious to try it, La Tienda carries it, and if you live in Seattle, The Spanish Table carries all of their products, even the squid ink paella base. Sweet! I'm feeling really glad that Aneto decided to come on over to Seattle for a spell.