Summary of yesterday’s post: So…no cough syrup, check! Sweating profusely? Perhaps.
What can you be certain of around these parts if you’re sick this winter? Elderberry syrup, hot water with lemon and honey, herbal tea, water, popsicles to soothe your sore throat, and chicken soup. If you’re really sick, I might even let you watch movies.
As for the chicken soup – we make that from scratch and it’s really simple. No, really. It’s more of a method, than a recipe, though, so my apologies for the non-recipe format. What can I say? I like to be different.
Main Ingredient – Roast chicken.
In a pinch a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store will do. Roasting a chicken sound too complicated? Au contrair, mon ami! It couldn’t be simpler. First comes the easy part: buy a chicken. The only consideration you need to make here is how big you want it to be. If you’re planning on making a roast chicken for dinner and then making soup from the leftovers, you’ll want a bigger chicken. If you’re just making soup a small bugger will do.
Second, take the chicken out of the packaging and check for things like the neck and organs. Take the stilly little button thermometer out as well. It’s bloody well useless. Rinse the chicken. Why? No idea, I just do it because my parents always did. Pat dry with paper towels and place in a 13″x9″ pan or a roasting pan if you have it.
Next, spread some softened butter on the skin and under the skin between the breast meat and the skin. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme (the dry kind is fine, but fresh is great if you have it). Place the chicken breast side down in the pan. Yes, upside down and this step is important.
Lastly, put the bird in a preheated 350° oven for one hour. When the hour is up, remove the pan from the oven, flip the bird (hehe) breast side up and put it back in the oven for another hour. From there you check your bird’s temperature (with a meat thermometer, please) to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.
If you’re going to have roast chicken for dinner, you’re done! If you’re making soup, uh, not quite.
Soup making is also pretty simple. You’ll start with a picked over chicken carcass. If you’ve already had the chicken for dinner this one’s already taken care of. If you roasted the chicken for soup, wrap the meat up and put in the fridge for later. In either case, it’s also important to save the pan drippings from that glorious roast bird. Pour it off into a jar and put it in the fridge. The next day you’ll find a layer of schmaltz floating on top of a layer of chicken jello. Aren’t you glad you didn’t throw that out? No?
The elusive gelling chicken stock is a big deal in certain food circles. The best I was ever able to do was get the pan juices to gel so I’ve never thrown them away. Ever. Skim off the layer of the schmaltz and save the jello to add to your soup later. It’s good for you, I promise.
Simmer the bones and skin (the neck too if yours came with one) in water plus a little apple cider vinegar and a few slices of ginger root for several hours – in a crock pot overnight or on the stove (while well supervised, please). The longer you simmer the more fragile the bones will become and that’s not a bad thing. Remember to skim the pot occasionally – particularly towards the beginning.
At this point you maybe wondering why I didn’t skip the roast step and put the bird straight in the stock pot. In all honesty, sometimes I do. Sometimes I buy chicken thighs or breasts and make stock from those. The chicken soup I make from those is tasty, but when I roast the chicken first, it’s tastier. So. Yeah. Moving on.
Then it’s a matter of straining your stock. For the record, this is my least favorite part and why I sometimes cheat and go with box stock (plus pan juices and roasted meat) and throw away the bones from the roasted bird. Shhh…several hundred traditional foods types have just now run screaming away from here for if I have not committed the unpardonable traditional foods sin, I have at least cemented in their minds why I was excommunicated in the first place.
Now that you’ve got your stock it’s a matter of adding in things like salt, pepper, bay leaf, thyme, grated fresh ginger (usually a piece that’s between 1 1/2″ – 2″ long), sautéed veggies (onions, celery, carrot), and garlic(at least four cloves). You can also add in some noodles or rice plus the reserved chicken meat (diced or shredded). Simmer for a while to develop the flavor and then serve. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf!