Friday, January 20, 2012

Chicken Soup - Ultimate Comfort Food

In my neck of the woods, it's chilly, blustery, and we could get some snow tonight.  Plus I have a slight cold, and despite the fact that I'm sitting here in a sweater and my husband's fleece-lined hoodie, I'm freezing.  So it seems fitting to blog about the ultimate comfort food, homemade chicken soup.

There are many variations on chicken soup in the world.  I even have a "quick" chicken soup I do during the work week that starts with a box of Swanson broth (I've found it's the closest thing to homemade that's not actually homemade).  But nothing - and I mean nothing - beats my family's recipe for chicken soup.

There may be some wailing and gnashing of teeth when they've realized I've shared this recipe.  But it's really too good to keep to oneself.

Homemade Chicken Soup
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, with skin and bones
  • 1 chicken thigh or leg quarter, with bones
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4-6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 6 inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, ends trimmed, cut into three pieces each
  • 1 can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 box orzo pasta
  • Shredded parmesan cheese, to serve
Place chicken into a 6 to 8 quart soup pot.

Fill the pot with water, leaving space to add vegetables (as they'll take up space in the water).  Bring to a boil on the stove.  Periodically, you will have to skim the foam from the surface.  I usually collect it in a coffee mug and then dump it later.

Meanwhile, wash and prepare the vegetables.  Do not drain the can of tomatoes.

Turn the heat on the soup pot down to a simmer ( low to medium low, depending on available time and your stove).  Add the vegetables, including the juice from the tomatoes, as well as salt and pepper to taste and the bay leaf. I try to go kind of light on the salt.  People can add more at the table if they like.

Cover, with the lid slightly tilted, and simmer for up to four hours, stirring occasionally.  You can cook the soup for about two hours and then refrigerate overnight as well, and this is like taking a hunk of gold and covering it with platinum.  I try to do this whenever I have time.  It just makes everything so amazing.

Anyway.  When you're ready to finish the soup, remove the chicken and carrots to a serving bowl. Cover the bowl with foil to keep the meat and carrots warm.

Set a sieve over a 4 quart sauce pan.  Remove the onion, celery and tomatoes from the soup pot and transfer it to the sieve.  Press gently with a spoon.  You can keep all the veggies for people to add to their soup bowls, or discard if no one is interested.

Ladle the broth into the smaller sauce pan, straining in the sieve.  You may want to skim off the grease that rises to the top.

Bring the broth to a boil and add the orzo.

Cook at a low, rolling boil until the orzo is tender.

To serve the soup, allow each person to select the meat and vegetables they want in their bowls.  Shredded parmesan cheese is the perfect Italian touch.

  • Using dark meat give the broth a heartier, richer consistency and taste, but for a lighter broth you can use all white meat.
  • For less "grease", you can remove the skin of the chicken pieces.
  • When you refrigerate the soup overnight, you can easily remove the congealed pieces of fat before heating up the pot.
  • Any small pasta is excellent for this soup.  I like orzo, but you can use anything you like.

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