Chicken Soup

Good Eatin’ v

This is the fifth in an occasional series of Good Eatin’, kind of a sidebar often involving leftovers (LO), where I will describe an easily put together meal that we enjoyed very recently, maybe yesterday.

I’m working on my “Texas Eats” post and my mind wanders to what’s-for-dinner. I dreamed about meatballs and there’s this Sardinian Meatball recipe by Joyce Goldstein that is interesting… but the Wednesday Chef says that its best the day after it’s made.

Well, Carol’s not feeling well… she stayed home from work, that means she’s really not feeling well. Right now she’s snoozing. I can make the meatballs for tomorrow and something mild for today. Fish, that’s mild. There’s a halibut recipe from a recent NY Times that looks good. So that makes a short list to take to Whole Food; ground pork, scallions, halibut, canned tomatoes. I added chicken soup to the bottom of the list, just in case.

I’m standing in front of the “house made” soups at Whole Food. The label of ingredients and price is on top of the containers, so I need to pick up each one to see what it is. I’m doing that and thinking, “Hell, I can make chicken soup… I’ve got celery, onions and potatoes, all I need is carrots and a chicken.” This is my lucky day; Rocky Jr. chickens are on sale for 99 ¢ a pound! That’s going to make some nice, inexpensive chicken soup, plus poached chicken meat for sandwiches, hash, stir fry, whatever. And I’ll have nearly two quarts of broth for other uses, as a whole chicken makes in about four quarts.

It will take about three hours to make the finished soup, but it is mostly inactive time.

Here’s how I do it.

Wash the chicken. Don’t forget to take the giblet pack out of the cavity. What to do with that? Put the heart and gizzard in the pot with the chicken. Wash the liver, dry it, and put it in that little plastic container in the freezer marked Chicken Livers. When you get enough, you can make a pate or saute or something. Livers aren’t good in the broth.

Put the chicken in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring just to a boil, skimming all the while. This takes a little over 20 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and pour off the water. So far, this is what I call the Tom Colicchio method from his book Think Like a Chef. He reasons that pouring off the water loses no flavor, and removes all the blood and other skanky stuff from the chicken. You know, the stuff that causes that gray scum to come to the surface of the water as it’s coming to a boil.

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Rinse the pot, put the chicken back in, cover with cold water, and bring up to a simmer. Do not add salt, it will become concentrated in the broth. Meanwhile, chop a stalk of celery, a carrot and quarter an onion. Skim, skim, skim. When the water is simmering, add the vegetables, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme. Simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, until you can easily pull the leg right off the body.

Take the chicken out of the pot and set the pot aside. Pull the meat off of the bones and throw the bones back in the pot. I like to put the skins in the pot, as well… they add flavor, and you can skim the fat off at the end. Reserve the meat for the soup and other uses. Put the pot with the broth and bones back on the fire, bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered for another hour. Strain the broth, rinse the pot.

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Now for the chicken soup.

If you want just the broth, it’s ready. Skim the fat, season with salt and pepper, and serve (Carol had a cup of that).

If you want a more hearty soup, you can add noodles, parsley, carrot, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, rice… any or all (except I wouldn’t do rice with another starch). On this day, I did carrots, potatoes and celery.

Chop an onion and saute in olive oil in your pot for 5 or 8 minutes until soft. Add the vegetables and give them a stir, add broth to the brothyness you want. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to cook the vegetables, drop in the chicken meat for a minute or two to heat through, check seasoning and serve.

If you’re not using the broth right away, or for leftover broth, refrigerate for up to a week. Once cool, it’s easy to skim the fat from the top.

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Now that’s Good Eatin’ and EZ, but not quick.

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