Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chicken Soup for a Rainy Day or Any Day

Chicken Soup is Ready originally uploaded by JeffreyWiden.
Real chicken soup, or chicken stock, you know, cooked from the carcass of a chicken.

I love the smell drifting through the house, on one of the darker cooler days, of slowly simmering stock with veggies, building over the 3 hours that it cooks until ... finally, everyone is mad to have something, anything, to eat, that smells like that.

Sounds like work, though. Don't want to work too hard.

I do it the easy way.

First of all I get a cooked chicken. From BJ's.

Stock from a cooked chicken is heartier and more flavorful, better for soup. It's easier to make the stock/soup, too. The chicken just pulls apart in your hands. No contamination worries, either.

BJ's has large Purdue beautifully roasted chickens for 5 bucks. Bigger than those from the supermarket, not dried out and overcooked, and they are cheaper, too. They don't sit around all day, either; those chickens move out of the store pretty quickly, so you get one(s) that are freshly cooked.

I really do get to have (not kill) 2 birds with one stone here -- all of that chicken can be a meal or more than a meal for the family. And I get the soup.

The breast meat can be removed and saved for sandwiches or sliced and served hot with a little white wine/butter/parsley reduction, or whatever, the thighs and legs are good just the way they are, and once you have broken down the bird (they're so tender, everything comes apart in your hands), you have that wonderful carcass.

Pull it apart some more and put the pieces (the bones and rib cage, not the meat) in a soup or pasta pot with 3 quarts of water, 2 cups of cheap sauvignon blanc, 2 bay leaves and some dry or fresh herbs, one chopped onion, a couple of chopped carrots and stalks of celery and simmer half covered for 3 hours on low. At the end of that time the bones will be just falling apart and the aroma in the house will have you salivating.

Pour it all through a big sieve or a colander to strain, and there is your soup base or stock. You will have want to add salt and pepper to taste, of course.

Usually by then some family members are so frantic, they do not want to wait, so soup it is.

We saute' up diced carrot, onion, and celery in 2 or 4 tablespoons of salted butter (you could use Olive Oil) for 5 to 7 minutes, and add some of the diced chicken breast at the end to mix while still on the heat, and finally add, say, 1/4 cup each of chopped tarragon and parsley.

Pour the whole thing into the soup base and you have the best chicken soup ever. Add other herbs and veggies if you want; add rice, or pasta, or white beans, or ...

If you get 2 chickens you can make enough stock so you can reserve some for soup and make a demiglace or sauce base by reducing the remainder of the stock by 1/2.

Save it in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze it if you like.

Use it next time you make a recipe that calls for chicken stock -- you will be happy you did.

I made chicken soup just a few days ago -- there wasn't ANY left.

~ Ted

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