Monday, January 09, 2006

chicken soup

Like a lot of other foodbloggers, I feel a need to abjure cookies and all their ilk for a while. It's true that yesterday I went out to lunch with my sister and had dessert--a tiny chocolate cake with a molten chocolate center, topped off by vanilla gelato. But that's absolutely the last of that kind of thing for a while. (Unless I'm tempted beyond my strength.) Therefore, tonight I'm making chicken soup for dinner.

Chicken Soup

This is not my mother’s recipe, for she didn’t make chicken soup. She made vegetable soup and split pea soup. In a frisky mood, she sometimes made vichysoisse, but she served it hot, not sure why. Maybe cold soup seemed silly to her. It was fine. But I don’t remember her ever making chicken soup. When we had that, it was from a red and white can, often for lunch with a grilled cheese sandwich.

I did use recipes originally when I made chicken soup—I have a recipe card from when I first got married hubristically titled “Chicken Vegetable Soup Supreme.” My experimental contribution to the annals of chicken soup was adding a chopped apple. But now when I make chicken soup, I go with the flow. If I have time, or if I have some in the freezer, I make a separate chicken stock. But often I just poach the chicken and use that poaching liquid as the basis for the soup.

This time, I have on hand

1 whole chicken breast, skin on

3 onions

4-5 carrots, both the regular orange and also some maroon ones I got at the market

3 medium potatoes

1 stalk celery with some leaves on it

½ red pepper

a big pinch of tarragon

a corresponding pinch of dried mint

a pinch of basil

a few shakes of cayenne pepper

a slug of white wine (about a half cup, I’d guess)

salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken in a pot with one of the onions and the celery. Cover with water and throw in a few shakes of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for abt 20 minutes. Take chicken out and cool, then take the meat off the bones and cut bite-size; discard skin. Other recipes always say to discard the solids in a stock, but I often just cut them up and put them in with the rest of the soup. If this is a bad idea, someone please let me know. Put the chopped carrots, onions, and red pepper in the pan with the chicken-poaching water and the wine. Add a little water if it seems like not enough. Add the herbs and the pepper and a bit of salt, and cook until the carrots are approaching doneness. Add chopped potatoes and simmer for maybe 10 minutes more. Add the chicken.

At this point, I taste the broth and sometimes add a bit more of this or that—more of what’s already in there (basil, tarragon, mint), or something else that seems to have potential: a bit of smoked paprika, a tiny pinch of oregano, a little turmeric. Also a good time to add a cup of cooked rice or pasta, if you’ve got some leftovers you’d like to use profitably. And this is the time for the salt and pepper to-taste.

This is a crowded soup, with chunks of vegetable and meat, and flecks of herbs floating in it—not to everyone’s taste maybe, but very good.


erieblue said...

I want to speak in favor of the turnip. Its flavor is such a wonderful haunting presence in a soup or stew. I am in love with them recently. Also, last time I made chicken soup I put a very tiny bit of leftover barbecue sauce (homemade) in. It was good.

lucette said...

Turnips! Yes! But I didn't have any.

Alice said...

Mmmm, chicken soup...yours sounds wonderful! Funny, I don't remember my mom ever making chicken soup either... And lastly, crowded soups are my absolute favorites! :)