Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chicken Soup at the Improv

It is getting to be farmers' market season again, and I think that I am even more excited than I was last year.  I signed up for a CSA program in January, which means I get a discount on everything I buy from a particular farm.  It worked out well last year, even though I didn't sign up as early.  The farmer grows the sorts of things I like to eat.  He has chickens, too, so a couple of weeks ago, I bought a dozen eggs laid by chickens I have actually met.  The eggs were all slightly different colors and sizes, and delicious!

Anyway, with new crops of vegetables on their way, I have been working my way through the last of the frozen vegetables, trying to make sure that nothing gets shifted to the back, hidden and forgotten.

On Sunday, I decided that I should use up the last bits of the Thanksgiving turkey, which I thought were hiding in a corner somewhere, freezer burned and forgotten, and given their state, slow cooked turkey soup sounded like a good plan.  I even considered using the crock pot, but in the end decided I wanted to play a more active roll in the preparation.

When I went searching for said turkey, however, it was nowhere to be found, so someone must have beaten me to it.  Luckily, I had two rather large, locally and organically grown chicken breasts from the same farmer, so turkey soup became chicken soup.

Step one: defrost the chicken.  I was a little concerned about using chicken because raw chicken has a certain squish factor which kind of grosses me out.  Solution: cut up the chicken with a nice sharp nice before it has completely defrosted and then pop the pieces into the microwave for a few minutes to finish the defrosting process.

Step two: start defrosting cubes of turkey stock (made from the carcass of the aforementioned Thanksgiving turkey).

Step three: brown the chicken.  I am not very good a browning meat.  Unless I can do it in one big chunk (like a roast), I don't have the patience to make sure that the small bits are spread out properly so that they brown instead of steam and then turn them in a timely and coordinated manner so that they brown evenly without burning or cooking too much.  I know that everything tastes better if I do it right, but true to form, after two batches, I just dumped the rest in and sauteed until I didn't see any more pink showing on the outside and then piled it all on a plate.

Step four: the fabulous mirepoix -- onion (sweet this time), carrots, celery and garlic.  Sauteed in the little bit of fat from the chicken and a bit of olive oil, adding white wine to deglaze as needed.  Sauteed might not be the correct term as I use lower heat and longer time.  Added a few grinds of salt and pepper somewhere along the line.

Step five: seasonings.  Look in the pantry or on the spice rack.  Shake in a bit of whatever strikes your fancy. I used a couple of different herb mixtures I like to keep on hand.

Step six: more wine.  I poured in what was left in a couple of open bottle which had been in the fridge for a while, probably about a cup and a half.

Step seven: everything else -- a saucepan full of turkey stock (four to six cups), the browned chicken, chopped up green beans (local, organic, frozen at the end of the summer), red potatoes, probably two cups of water to make sure everything was covered and a tablespoon or two or my favorite homemade vegetable bouillon.

Step eight: bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, tasting for seasoning and doneness along the way.

Step nine: enjoy a hearty meal and store the leftovers.  (This recipe makes roughly a vat of soup.  There will be leftovers unless you are feeding many and/or large appetites.)

You could server it over rice or noodles.  You could throw in tiny pasta (or not so tiny pasta, as you like).  Beans would probably work, too.  I am hoping that it freezes well, and I can vouch that it improves as leftovers.

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