Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Most Beautiful Chicken Soup

Following my advice on How to be Sick. Nicely. is my finely-honed-over-the-years recipe for chicken soup. My kids always ask for this. It comforts them psychologically (Mother's love) and it truly is just the thing to sip when they feel under the weather. We also love it as a Sunday supper soup. If you are Motherless, make it for yourself and you will feel the love. If you have young children, start making it now so they too will have the benefit of your Mother Love for years to come.

What makes this soup so appealing is its pure, bright, gentle flavor. I skim the fat and strain the stock resulting in a clear yellow broth. Tender slivers of chicken, noodles, thin discs of carrots, celery and onion turn it into a classic. Make it for a friend and they'll be forever grateful and kind to you.

Of course there are shortcuts (canned chicken broth, store roasted chicken) but here is the definitive recipe for posterity. catch the chicken, kill the chicken, clean the chicken...Just kidding! People, this is not a lot of work. Three easy steps. Let me talk you through it. Give it a try once and you'll see.

Make the broth
1 chicken
8 cups of water (or enough to cover the chicken)
1 bay leaf
3 peppercorns
1 large clove of garlic (I pan roast the garlic in a cast iron skillet before adding to the pot. It deepens the flavor, but you don't have to do it.)
A toss of salt (a rounded 1/2 tsp is good)

Wash the chicken. Make sure to remove the gizzards, kidney, neck, etc. that may come with the chicken when you buy it.
Put the chicken in a large pot and cover it with water.
Add the bay, peppercorns, garlic, salt.
Cover and bring to a nice boil. Not a furious boil, but a nice boil.
Cook until the chicken is tender and...cooked! About 45 mins. to 1 hour.
Turn off the flame and lift the chicken out of the pot carefully and put on a plate to cool.

When the broth has cooled down a bit, skim the fat. I do this with a special pitcher I bought expressly for this purpose, that separates the fat from the broth, but you can do this with a big soupspoon too, skimming the fat gently off the top.
Next, strain the soup over a strainer into a clean pot. You could even line the strainer with one paper towel if you like. Voila: a gorgeous broth. Now, simmer the broth on a low flame.

While the chicken is cooking

2 carrots
1/2 large onion
2 inside stalks of celery

Slice the carrots & celery into thin and lovely slices
Dice the onion nicely.

Saute the above, gently, in a bit of butter or olive oil. Don't fry, just saute. The vegies should be soft, not dried out. This is a very important step. You don't just throw raw veggies into a broth. You'll see the difference in sauteing them first, in flavor and in the way the veggies will color the soup nicely.

Turning broth into soup

Peel the chicken meat off the chicken. Dice it up into whatever size you like (some like big chunks, some like little) and add to the broth. If you only like white meat, just use the breast meat. Add to the simmering broth.

Add your gently sauteed veggies to the simmering broth.

Add a little bit of pasta. You can break up a little spaghetti, or throw in some alphabets or whatever pasta you have around. Go easy on the quantity. Pasta is very misleading in its ability to grow and absorb the broth. If you add too much, you will have mush. Start with a 1/3 cup of alphabets, for example. You can always add more later, after you see what has happened, if you like more pasta..

1 tablespoon of powdered chicken broth (Knorr) to give your broth a tad more body.
A splash of balsamic vinegar. This "brightens" the flavor. It will go unnoticed by all, but it is your secret!
Snip some fresh dill into the soup. Or, use powdered dill if you don't have fresh.
Taste for salt. Add more if needed. A few grinds of pepper.
Add more a bit more water if the broth has reduced too much.

Simmer your soup gently until the pasta is cooked.
Serve it piping hot in a bowl with a wedge of fresh lemon to squeeze in at the last minute. This lemon juice is truly your secret ingredient.
Nice with sliced French bread & sweet butter. Or, saltines are nice too.

1 comment:

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