Thursday, February 14, 2013

lessons learned (annual sicky soup post)

I learned a lesson. That lesson was not, as I expected: how to break down a chicken into parts, but instead: perhaps I'd rather not learn how to break down a chicken into parts.

This year I am not, as of yet, sick. My man has been sick the past few days. One of our best friends has been sick the past few days. I suppose you could say my two men are sick. Meaning I'm likely to get sick shortly too. So, I thought: "I've never made a chicken noodle soup from scratch before" and "Perhaps this is a good time to practice breaking down a whole chicken" and "whole chickens are cheaper by weight than pieces, and it will give us an assortment of white and dark meat." I like to learn basic fundamentals. I like to fancy myself a future chef. But chopping up that chicken made me a bit shaky, more than a little squeamish, and quite sad. Oh, and I burnt the onions while I was wrestling with it. So much for my cheffy dreams. Not to say I'll never do it again, but it certainly made me think about where my comfort line is.

As I so often do, I started with a recipe from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen. I like her ideas of browning the chicken and onions first to add more depth of flavour. Many of the other recipes I looked at just put everything in the pot and brought to a boil. Her stock looks more rich and comforting. Some recipes do call for roasting first, which could also be nice, but more time/dirty dish intensive, and I wanted to try to Deb's way this time.

Because my onions blackened instead of browned because I took too long with the chicken, and because it was more difficult browning the chicken in my pile of blackened onions, I would perhaps start with the chicken parts next time. Brown those in oil (5-10 minutes), then remove, brown the onions (5-10 minutes), add the chicken back in, and then the water, bay leaf, salt and pepper. I also added a bit more water because I'd like some extra stock. I'm thinking about chicken pot pie lately too. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and skim off foam. Then I decided I should also throw in a bit of inner celery stalks and leaves and my carrot peelings, so the extra stock itself would be more flavourful for other uses.

I let this simmer for about an hour then took the chicken out to cool (I meant to do this after 30 minutes but time got away from me). After removing the meat from the bones I decided to add the bones back into the simmering pot and let it reduce further. Having read a lot about the benefits of bone broths, I'd love to have the extra immune boost. In the future if I wanted to do an hours long simmer, I would omit the salt at the beginning


Its 8 hour later, the stock has been simmering away all day. I've added more water periodically, along with a splash of cider vinegar to help draw the minerals out of the bones.

To finish the soup I brought another smaller pot of water to a boil, and used this to cooked chopped celery, carrots and parsnips for ~10 minutes, 2 of each. I removed the vegetables and cooked some egg noodles in the same pot (about 2 handfuls). To serve, I mixed this water about equally with strained stock, added enough vegetables and chicken for one portion, then ladled it over one portion of noodles.

Keeping things separate like this means my noodles won't become waterlogged overnight, and I can control the portioning properly, ensuring everyone gets equal amounts of deliciousness.

I just finished eating (while laughing along to the latest episode of Parks and Recreation) and now I feel soothed, comforted, fulfilled and happy. After eating this soup today, along with one green juice (kale, apple, parsley, cucumber, celery, ginger, lemon), one beet/carrot/cabbage/ginger juice, and a snack of kimchi, I feel like my energy is through the roof. I am seriously reconsidering my earlier feelings about never buying a whole chicken again. In fact, having refreshed my memory on the benefits of bone broths this afternoon while it was cooking, I'd like to make this at least once a month. If nothing else it means I get the back which is great for adding body and gelatin to the stock. I can't wait to give some to my sickies tomorrow, when it should taste even better. Bring on the immune boost!

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