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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Home-made Chicken Soup

Few things are as uniformly and ubiquitously considered 'hearty' and 'filling' and 'heart-warming' as chicken soup.

It's good stuff.

Well, following Thanksgiving - where I roasted a whole chicken - I was left with several full jars of a concentrated chicken stock.

I also had a few root vegetables in the crisper which were starting to become... less crisp.  :)

So, a perfect time to make some home made chicken soup!

I started with copious amounts of fresh parsley.  A must for chicken soup in my opinion.

And a not so small amount of root veggies.  Also a must.

So, first to go was the white onion.  Lots of it.  Diced rather finely.  It's OK to get chunks of carrot and celery in your soup... but not onion.  :)

So, I gave the soup a kick start by dropping a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of unsalted butter in the bottom of my large cauldron-esque cook pot.  Brought that up to a low simmer, and threw in the onion to get started.

Then, as that was - essentially - sautĂ©ing, I chopped my other vegetables.  The scallions relatively finely, but the carrots and celery were basically just sliced.  After a few minutes, the scallions got added.

And then I added the stock.  Lots of it.

Now, because stock is - by it's very nature - concentrated, I then added a fair bit of water.  Basically I topped it up with water.  The ratio was almost 1:1 stock to water.  Don't be afraid to add the water slowly though, and in batches, as you don't want to dilute your soup!

Now I turned the heat up to medium-high, and set to adding the carrots and celery.

Let's not forget about the soup's namesake - the chicken!

This was leftover from Thanksgiving as well, and rather than chop with a knife, I like the look of 'pulled' chicken better, so I used my hands.

After all that gets added, I chopped up my finishing touch - the parsley.

All that gets mixed together, and brought to a slow boil.

Now comes the salt.  I know many people who cringe at this part.  In our fear of sodium, we often make things taste terrible, and then rebound in other unhealthy ways.

I was raised in a very low sodium household.  In fact, my parents have poor habits when it comes to sodium.  My mother will put a ton of effort into a meal and not even add a granule of salt, out of principle, on some things which could be made much better by a truly very small amount of it... like steamed veggies, but then she'll not even think twice about serving up a platter of processed meat (like bacon).  

To me that's crazytownbananapants.

I'd rather take a more holistic approach, and take my salt in moderation.  So, I'm not afraid of putting a little bit of salt in something which really does need it to taste good (like chicken soup!) but never really go overboard.  And considering I avoid more processed foods than the average North American, I feel safe in doing so.

I guess that makes me the opposite of my parents, because I'd rather skip out on a piece or two of bacon per week if it means that I can actually have some salt in my soup, a dash on my asparagus, and a sprinkle on my beans.

Anyway... I'm adding a level tablespoon of gray sea salt here.

A tablespoon is a lot of salt... but this is a LARGE amount of soup... easily 12 servings.  You can see that the pot is almost full... that is the single largest pot I have in my kitchen.

Not to mention the fact that there isn't a speck of salt anywhere else in the pot.  There was none in the stock, and although the chicken had been roasted with a sprinkle on top (on its skin) I can't imagine it retained any to bring it to the soup today.

So... you have to add it.  It means the difference between tasting delicious or tasting like meat water.

Just take your salt with a grain of salt (heh heh heh - pun intended).  If I have a sodium-rich meal one night, I'll abstain the following... or try to anyway, which is all I ask of myself.

So, after the salt, I give it all a good two or three minutes of stirring while still at high heat.

But then the lid goes on and I turn it down to low, and let this puppy simmer for hours.

It's technically ready as soon as the veggies are soft, I'd say about an hour maybe two.  But I like to leave it on for the better part of a day.  This batch was on for about 6 or 7 hours.

If you want to add a noodle (of your choice) do so at least an hour before serving, but no more than 3.  Today I went with arborio rice.  Seemed like a good idea.

And it was.  It got a little mushy, but in a good way.

Anyway, after simmering all afternoon, my soup really took wonderful shape.

All the oils separated, and made the watery stock liquid all nice and greasy, and all the greens (especially the parsley) took on the warm, over-saturated, dullness that bespeaks soup-like cooked-ness.


I like days like this.  It was a cold, gray autumn day, and the hard part of supper was all done by like noon, so when the wife got home from work it was a simple matter to just ladle up some bowls, hunker down and cut-in.

I served this up with just a couple pieces of artisan bread, toasted with a bit of margarine, and a couple of parmesan crisps from the day before.

Comfort food at its best.