Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chicken Soup

They say that chicken soup is good for the soul, but I say it is just plain good. Since we were in the middle of a frozen precipitation lockdown, I had to come up with something that I could make from what we had in the freezer and pantry, and this was it. This is not so much a recipe per se, but just how I made it this particular day. The beauty of soup in general is that you can pretty much put in whatever you want, but with chicken soup, it is really more about the brothy part than the other stuff. So, amend this as you will, but this one turned out exceptionally well! Start out with a BIG pot and either a whole chicken as above, or a couple of packages of chicken parts. I used 11 large bone in, skin on breasts. That is a LOT of chicken, but I was also planning to make some chicken salad and some chicken and dumplings. Plan on the equivalent of one whole chicken, which would be about 4 breasts. I would have loved to use the whole bird because the darker meat has a much richer flavor, but I didn't have one in the freezer and there wasn't one pecking around in the yard.

Cover the chicken with water, add a couple of teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Allow it to boil gently for about 30-45 minutes, or until the chicken is done through. If there is foamy stuff that comes to the top, just skim it off with spoon. When you think the chicken is done, turn it off for about 15 minutes, then remove chicken to a plate to cool. Allow the broth to cool a bit and skim off as much fat as you want to take out. Keep in mind that the fat is what is going to give the soup it's rich flavor, so don't take it all out. If you are really pure, at this point, you can put the broth in a pitcher and refrigerate, then after it is chilled , it is easy to skim off the fat.

Of course, if you didn't want to fool with the broth part at all, you could just bake your chicken in the oven, then used canned or boxed stock. ( Though I wouldn't advise it - flavor suffers) I guess you could use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery if you REALLY wanted to....might really get some good flavor from the seasonings.

Now, since this was a snow day, I had to improvise and use what I had on hand. Originally, I had intended to use this for some veggie dip for "Big Game Day", but since that is NEXT weekend, I figured I would replace it and just use this one in the soup. There are probably several different ones that would work, but I would not suggest using one that is going to make a "tomato-y" base or one that is labled "creamy". ( Unless you want your chicken soup to be red or creamy) So, in the pot it went along with a chopped half onion and a little chopped celery and some carrot medalions that were hanging around in the freezer. I think a handful or two of just frozen mixed vegetables would add a little color and variety too, but I just didn't want to dig through the freezer for them. Just put in whatever you like or have leftover in the fridge.
While the broth and veggies and dip mix were simmering, I pulled all that chicken off the bone. The meat sort of shredded a bit, but I like it that way. Be sure and TASTE the broth from time to time because the veggie dip mix has a lot of salt and you don't want to over salt your soup.
Add the chicken back into the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or so, tasting for seasoning a time or two. I added some poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and a bit more salt.

After you get the seasoning just about right, add whatever pasta you like. Usually, some nice egg noodles would be perfect, but living in the land of lower carbs, I have to try and use Dreamfield's whenever possible. ( Plus that was all I had besides spaghetti noodles). You could even use cooked rice if you like, but don't use minute rice. It becomes an odd shape and texture in soup.
So, I put in about half of this 16 ounce box of pasta and let it continue to cook for another 15 minutes, checking the pasta for doneness after about 10 minutes. You kinda want to turn the heat off when the pasta is al dente because it will get too soft if you wait until it is totally done. Remember, it will keep cooking until the soup cools down. Check seasoning again, because the pasta will soak up a lot of it. The broth is really what you taste in this soup.....I added a bit more pepper and garlic powder at this point.
Allow the pot to cool just a little, then serve in big bowls with whatever side floats your boat. In our house , that was cheddar cheese toast. On another day, it might be a little romain and tomato salad, or saltines.
This one was a real hit...the ulta picky boy kid even ate it and pronounced it his best "new" food ever. I was pretty proud of him because he is a strict non-vegetable eater and this was a big step for him to even try it when there were visible pieces of carrot and celery present.
I know there are no precise measurements here ( because there were none) and it might be hard to follow, but you know, it is only soup after all. You can always add stuff or take out what you don't like. Just be careful with the salt because there is a fine line between just right and too much! Good Luck!
( As soon as this was cooled, I packed it up for distribution in mason jars, and then they steamed up and I couldn't get a decent time, I promise)

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