Monday, September 08, 2008

Chicken stock and soup

One of those things I always have in my freezer is chicken stock. This is really only because I'm always making chicken--after the chicken has been roasted and eaten, there's usually a great meaty carcass left over that needs utilizing. Because this is the Great Depression, and that's what we do, in between wearing our cloche hats and standing in breadlines while discussing the New Deal's lasting implications for federal control over the economy. Every now and then though, I don't freeze my chicken stock. I just go straight from stock to soup and it's a very satisfying process, if slightly more time consuming than simply grabbing a bag out of the freezer and proceeding from there. Maybe you'll find it interesting though, so I'll describe my process anyway.

The same kinds of things build a good soup stock as the soup itself. So when I made this recently, I had onion, celery and carrot. I peeled the outer layer of the onions off and set them aside. The inside "good parts" of the onion, I diced up for the soup. I washed and peeled my carrots, reserved the peels, and then diced the carrot. I trimmed the tops of my celery and diced the middle of the stalks. I'm left with 6 related piles of vegetables that looks something like this: The front row is about 1 cup each of diced vegetables ready for soup and the back row is the scraps from trimming those same veggies. Toss the scraps into a deep pot along with a couple cloves of garlic. No need to peel them; in fact this is a great use for those crappy little teeny cloves that are always such a pain to peel, just save them for making stock. I added another roughly chopped carrot as well, and 1 bay leaf. Get your chicken carcass out and trim off any usable meat from the thighs and under the breast, mince and set aside. Add the trimmed carcass to the pot with the vegetables and cover everything with water. Fill the whole pot up. Set it over medium-high heat to simmer for at least one hour. When you're tired of waiting, take your stock off heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Meanwhile, you've got some nice chicken and vegetables reserved, just waiting to be made into actual soup. Don't bother cleaning out your pot, just add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the bottom and saute the minced celery, carrot and onion over medium heat until softened (about 10 minutes). Add in 2 cloves minced garlic and saute another 2 minutes, then add your chicken stock back in. Add at least 1 teaspoon salt and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, then add 1/2 cup of tiny pasta and a handful of green peas and your reserved chicken meat. Let cook until the pasta is done, then take off heat and stir in 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice. Taste it to see if it needs more salt and also fresh black pepper. I usually grate parmesan over the top too. This soup I made the other day was really simple, but you could add really whatever you wanted to; fresh corn, lima beans, zucchini, chopped's great for improvisation.

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