Saturday, September 8, 2012

From the Kitchen: Chicken Soup

I'm fully aware that this title alone does not spark excitement. Chicken soup? Pretty basic. And I agree. However, there are a few key ingredients that I add to my version that I think really makes it special. Nothing secret or crazy, just GOOD!

I made this soup about a week ago at the request of my mom who was feeling a bit under the weather. I'm blogging about it today because I suppose I'm in a bit of a 'cooking mood;' I spent most of the day (before the Gator game) in the kitchen making thisthis, and these (do your mouth a favor and click on them... they're all pretty easy and really delicious!).

So without any more ado, here's my go-to recipe for chicken soup.

Ingredients: the 'special' ingredients are in italics

2 whole carrots, peeled and diced
half of one sweet onion, diced or sliced thin
2 celery stalks, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (sadly, I didn't have any garlic when I made this, but don't skip it if you have any.)
*note- you can use more or less of the veggie to suit your taste. I always use lots of onion; I think it's what gives the broth such a great flavor. I'd personally cut back on the carrots; this particular batch of soup was too sweet for me because I used so many.
1 whole lemon (for juicing)
a scoop of butter or margarine, for sautéing the veggies
bouillon cubes or broth/stock- I love these 'fake' chicken ones pictured below purely for the flavor. I would recommend chicken broth only because that's what I use and like the taste of, (and it IS chicken soup, now isn't it?!) but if you prefer veggie broth, that would work too.
6 cups boiling water (to make broth if using bouillon)
2 cooked, shredded chicken breasts (or rotisserie chicken)
smoked salt
You can also add any fresh or dried herbs you may have. I didn't this time, but oregano is very quite good.

Notice the vintage chef utensil holder- it was my grandmother's :)

Melt butter or margarine in a large pot over low to medium heat. Dice onion first and get it cooking. The longer these bad boys (slowly) cook, the better. Add the carrots and celery, a pinch of smoked salt and some lemon juice. Sauté for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. 

I LOVE this stuff. You can make your own (hey, Martha Stewart!) or just buy it, like I did. I don't notice that it adds a particularly smoked flavor, just a nice, deep, rich saltiness. I use it on almost any savory dish. Be warned; a little bit goes a LONG way!

While veggies are softening, boil the water for the bouillon cubes. I heat mine up in a tea kettle. You could probably just add water to the pot and add the bouillon cubes to dissolve in there, but I like to make sure that the cubes are completely dissolved, and therefor I make the broth before adding it.
If you're just using pre-made broth, add that after about 10 minutes or so and let it heat up while the veggies continue to soften.

I stumbled across these at my local health food store (home of the only veggie burger I've ever liked). I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian, but the flavor is quite awesome. 


It ain't so purdy, but it sure is tasty!

When the broth is ready and the veggies are soft (the carrots might still be a bit crunchy), add broth to the pot. Let simmer over medium heat. If you like your carrots on the softer side, cover and let it cook a bit longer. I usually prefer them a tad crisp, but my mom likes them baby-food soft, so this simmered for a good 20 minutes or so. 

If you're adding chicken, toss it in. I've made this plenty of times without chicken (is it still chicken soup, technically?!) You can also add some noodles if you'd like. I've added egg noodles in the past, but really any will do. I cook them in a separate pan so they don't soak up too much of the broth, then add them with the chicken toward the end. 

Now, I LOVE lemon on just about anything. Really, anything. So I use my handy dandy citrus juicer to add lots of lemony lovin'- a whole lemon, to be exact. If you're not the biggest lemon fan, at least add half a lemon's worth of juice. I promise, it takes the flavor of the entire soup up a notch. 

If you cut the lemon in half and microwave it for 30 seconds or so, you'll get more juice. 

Stir and let simmer another minute or two. Taste, and add more smoked salt if necessary (I always do). You could also turn the heat down or off and let sit for another 20 minutes or so, to let the flavors meld. I was hungry and couldn't wait.

Yes, that's MORE lemon about to be squeezed into the soupy goodness. 

Bottom line, there's really no wrong way to make this. As you can tell, my measurements aren't too precise. Play around and find what works for you. This also freezes beautifully- pour serving-sized amounts into zip-top baggies, and lay flat in the freezer. Once frozen, stack them up vertically like books to save space! 


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