Chicky Chicky Bang Bang

Apparently, there’s some truth to the rumor that chicken soup is good for colds. I’m too lazy to post a link so go Google it. (Isn’t it great that Google became a verb?) Regardless of what “science” says about it, a steaming bowl of warm homemade soup made with love (or something bearing a marked resemblance) will make any pitiful patient feel better. (Well, with the caveat the soup has to taste good. You can’t just hand over a bowl of brothy-water filled with chicken feet. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be nice. Even if chicken feet make the best chicken stock).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m terrible with the recipe writing. I have too many asides and substitutions. Therefore, I will include an overly long preface. Feel free to skip ahead to the recipe and go from there, if you wish.

First, recipes are guidelines, and in almost all cases (except when baking) ingredients/amounts are negotiable. Therefore, feel free to sub at will. Don’t like carrots and celery? Sub other root vegetables (but probably not potatoes, as they could get mushy). Don’t have Northern Beans on hand? Use what ya got. Or, for the traditionalist, omit the beans altogether and add those wide egg noodles (I found whole wheat egg noodles at Publix; next time I might give those a whirl). Don’t like spinach in soup? Leave it out. Vegetarian? Use vegetable stock and omit the chicken. (I don’t have a recipe for vegetable stock but I think it’s fairly easy to make. Google it. See, there’s that verb again!) My point is, everything is up for grabs. Add/subtract as you like. It don’t hurt my feelings none.

If you’re wondering where I got my inspiration from, check out one of my all time favorite food bloggers, Elise at Simply Recipes. LOVE HER SITE! I would marry it if I could. (wait, that would make me a polygamer…maybe not). Here is her recipe for chicken stock (I used method 2) and chicken soup. My recipes are variations thereof. Read all about it after the cut.

CHICKY STOCK

4 lbs Chicken parts (I used chicken leg/thigh quarters, as they were on sale for $2 something a pound; plus I wanted meat for soup)

1 white or yellow onion, chopped

Olive oil

2 quarts (8 cups) boiling water

Salt

I used my lovely Le Creuset 5 quart oval Dutch oven and it just barely held everything. It made it easy to maneuver with the chicky parts, but next time I would probably use my ridiculously huge stock pot. Even if I do hate to clean it. Hell, I hate washing dishes, period. Yet I did all the cleaning cause J was sick. How awesome am I?

1. Hack up chicken parts. I don’t have a cleaver, so this was not pretty. For the chicken quarters, I just separated the leg and thigh and hacked up each thigh into 2 pieces. It ain’t pretty, but it doesn’t have to be.

2. Pour some olive oil into a stock pot/large dutch oven/whatever. Saute the onions til soft and they get a little color. Remove onions. Working in batches, cook chicken parts until no longer pink, approximately 4-5 minutes. After all chicken bits are cooked this way, return everything (onions included) to the pot. Reduce heat to low, cover, cook about 20 minutes.

3. While chicken is cooking, boil the water. Apparently, my tea kettle was not large enough for the task and sputtered up hot water rather than steam in a pathetic attempt to whistle. Disgraceful. Moral of the story? Make sure whatever you use is large enough to boil 2 quarts of water.

4. After chicken has been cooking 20 minutes, turn heat to high, add boiling water and salt* to taste. Bring to low simmer, cover & simmer for around 20 minutes.

5. Using tongs, remove chicky parts for shredding. Strain remaining broth. Apparently, it has a shelf life in the fridge of two days or a few months in the freezer. I would leave it in the fridge for a day, let the fats/solids solidify for easy removal, then freeze. Apparently ice cube trays make for easy broth freezing.

6. Stand back and pat yourself on the back. You could have simply opened a box of broth and been done with it, but you got down in there and did it yourself. Be proud of your accomplishment. Make sure to periodically remind sick patient on the couch how much work you put into this, so they know you care. I suggest every 15-20 minutes or so.

* I totally bucked convention here and didn’t add salt. I know, for shame. Salt is important, flavor your food from the beginning, blah blah I KNOW! J has me all wonky about sodium so I’ve been trying to cut back. As a result, I ended up having to add a lot more salt to the soup itself. So, yeah, salt your broth. About 2 tsp should do it.

FEEL BETTER CHICKY SOUP

Preface: Soup always tastes better the next day. This is no exception. The only problem is when some of the fat congeals some of the spinach had to be sacrificed, as they became floating rafts of fatty-spinach ice bergs. In light of this unexpected development, I suggest adding spinach to hot bowls of soup and stir to wilt before serving, rather than adding the spinach to the pot.

Also, next time, I would add a bouquet garni to the soup and let it simmer a bit. I don’t like chopped up bits of herbs in my soup and this would give good flavor without the mess. Use whatever herbs appeal to you. I would use thyme, sage and bay leaves. Wrap and tie up in cheesecloth, add along with broth and let simmer for a bit.

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 carrots, chopped into pleasing soup bite pieces (whatever that means to you)

2 celery stalks, same deal

1 onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Chopped green onion

¼ poultry seasonings

pinch crushed red pepper flakes

S&P to taste

Shredded chicken*

½ can Northern beans (see note above about subs)

Spinach

Grated parmesan, for serving (because what soup isn’t made better by a little parm?)

1. Get your veggies (onion, carrots, celery, garlic) and sauté in some olive oil or butter. In a large pot, of course. Sauté until cooked, but don’t overcook til mushy (we walk a fine line here – I undercooked the carrots a bit so I had to let them simmer longer to soften). Add seasoning. I don’t know what exactly is contained in poultry seasonings (probably loads of MSG) so go ahead and use whatever you know. But do make sure to keep red pepper flakes. Apparently it’s a key ingredient.

2. Add stock (and bouquet garni, if using). Simmer for awhile (10-15 minutes; don’t let vegetables get mushy). Add green onions and S&P to taste.

3. Add shredded chicken and beans (or cooked whole wheat egg noodles).  Simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or until chicken and beans are heated through.

4. Ladle into bowls, stir spinach into bowl of soup to wilt. Top with parmesan. Serve and feel the warm chickeny goodness magically start to cure what ails you.

* Use the chicken that you used to make the stock base. I shredded about ½ the chicken I had cooked in the stock for the soup. I used the remaining chicken and ½ can of beans for delicious lazy enchilada fillings the next day.

*Delicious lazy “enchiladas” – mix leftover shredded chicken and beans with some sour cream, shredded cheese and salsa. Throw in some cilantro if you’re feeling saucy. Place a spoonful of chicken-bean mixture in a multigrain or whole wheat tortilla and roll up like a little burrito, but folding in both ends. Make a single layer of these in a baking dish. Pour ½ can of enchilada sauce on top (I like green for chicken) and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove pan, pour rest of sauce on top and cover lightly with more shredded cheese. Bake another 15 minutes. Serve with shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and/or salsa. May not be authentic, but delicious and EASY. So there.

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