Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Succeed at Chicken Soup

After a lot of trying, I finally managed to make chicken soup good enough that it didn't make me wish I'd just thrown in a couple of bouillon cubes instead of doing all that work. Here is my recipe.

Bonier parts of one chicken (I used wings, drumsticks, the neck, and the giblets, except for the liver, which John was charitable enough to take off my hands)
Celery, including a few leaves
Water -- should have used more water; although the stock was strong enough, there wasn't much of it

Simmer for 4 hours. By this point it was ten o' clock, so I threw it in the fridge with the idea that I'd do something about it tomorrow.

In the morning it had completely gelled into a firm aspic. This is what a good chicken stock is supposed to do. I was tempted to just eat it as it was, but it wasn't salted at all, and besides, I wanted soup. So I put it back on the stove and melted it again.

I took out all the chicken parts, pulled the meat off and chopped it, and put the meat back in. I chopped up the gizzard very finely, which helps make the chewiness not a problem. (You see I'm not big on giblets.)

Then I had the idea of, instead of throwing the rest of the vegetables in raw and letting them simmer, of sauteing them in olive oil. I believe this was the secret that made it so good. I sauteed onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, just until they were beginning to soften but before the celery lost all its crunch.

Then I threw all the veggies in, added some rice, salt, and pepper, and served it up. It was GOOD. It didn't need seasoning. I was amazed. Then I remembered I had been going to put sour cream in it, so I put a spoonful in my bowl. Then it was even better. And it hadn't even been very hard to make.

Now, however, I am on a celery kick, and want to know what other ways I can cook it to get that yummy taste. Raw, it is so uninspiring to me, but cooked in chicken broth, it becomes exactly what I want. Does anyone have a recipe for celery soup?


Dr. Thursday said...

Excellent commentary, akin to Baruffaldi or Catalani on Catholic rituals!

As I seem to recall, Italian cookbooks call that technique of sauteing the vegetables a "soffrito" - hmm, I must check Apicius and see if it goes back to Imperial times.... not apparent to a quick consultation, but I must review it. You DO have Apicius do you not? (I have it in translation, haven't spotted an original yet.) He does have a cooked celery, I will try to transcribe later.

Some more thoughts on "soffrito": Onion and celery (carrot quoque, et garlic ad libitum), but almost anything else can go in. Herbs, too. You can actually strain the stock and toss the solid residues (except for large meaty parts) without serious loss of nutrients, since most of the good stuff is now in the aqueous phase.

The trick for the jelling of course is to have enough of the parts which will give you the gelatin, and you hit on them. If you WANT aspic, you can always get the unflavoured gelatin to add.

Ah, yet another writing to put on the long list - a true serious study (and meditation) on soup!

One is reminded of the monks who made the MINESTRONE (the "big service") for the hungry poor-and-needy who came for assistance... so many wonderful ideas. I think I may have to make some soup soon!

Paul Stilwell said...

A little tip: the bones you use for stock, whether beef or chicken (use older chickens (stewing hens) for best flavour), can be roasted in the oven for a while before going into the stock, to draw out the flavour in a similiar fashion to what you did with the vegetables in oil.

Also start all ingredients for stock cold, putting them in the cold water *before* bringing it all to simmer. Apparently the cold water draws out the the goodies.

Of course you may already know these things.

Oh yeah, use leeks! Whenever you can.

Sheila said...

Yes, I put the chicken in cold, and also left them in the cold water with a bit of vinegar for about 20 minutes. I forgot to mention them.

Leeks! Great idea. Also herbs in general. My husband is not keen on strong herb-y flavors, though, unfortunately, so I have to use a light hand.

I have never even heard of Apicius. What kind of classics person AM I?

some guy on the street said...

Celery leaves are delicious! They're sort-of like parsley, only *better*, and *more so*. They work lovely chopped fresh in salads and such, adding lots of spice and savour!

Oh... reading that your Mr. isn't keen... well, at least feed yourself well with them now, and baby should grow up liking them.

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