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09 January 2012 @ 10:02 am
The Chicken Soup, in its final incarnation  

Okay.  I just about have the Chicken Soup of the Ages figured out.

Ingredients I use:  one chicken, a zucchini, a small bag of carrots (about seven), rutabaga or turnips (about 3-4 cups chopped), sliced white mushrooms, green onions, olive oil, spices.

Put one whole chicken -- not a hen, a normal-sized chicken, into a crock pot
(with or without giblets is fine, but make sure you remove the paper bag if they have them bagged)
Sprinkle with parsley, set to low for 8-10 hours
Turn off, let sit for a little while, dish it out into a plate and let it sit again until it's cool enough to handle
Do not discard the juices and bits of skin in the crock pot, nor the giblets if you left them in
Debone the chicken.  Put the meat -- in bite-sized chunks, torn apart with your fingers -- into a bowl for later.  That's your chicken for the soup.  If you DO use a hen, you'll have enough chicken for two soups; just freeze half and you'll have easy soup chicken later on.
Put the bones and skin back into the crock pot bowl with the juices and such.  Keep every bit of it.

Line a nice big stewpot (my cast iron dutch oven is around 6-7 quarts and a fine size for this) with cheesecloth.
Dump all the chicken bones, skins, juice, etc., into the cheesecloth.
Add whatever you like of:
fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, coriander, fennel (go easy), caraway, salt, white or black pepper, ginger (I usually keep a hunk of ginger root in the freezer and just carve off a piece and toss it in), maybe a little lemon, onion if you like, whatever.  If you have any other saved chicken parts (from roast chicken etc.), toss those in too.
Tie up the cheesecloth with cotton string, making sure the tail of the knot is long enough to trail off and out of the pot so you can grab it later.  (I just tie it to the pot handle.)
Bring to a boil, then cut down to a simmer, simmer from 1-3 hours (stock is pretty forgiving, depends on how strong you like it).
Turn off the stove, let it cool for a bit, and then lift out the cheesecloth bag, let it drain a little, and discard.  Your chicken has done everything it could for the cause.
I usually end up with almost exactly two quarts of stock.  I save one and freeze it, and leave the other in the pot for the soup.

Now, here's the thing:  technically, one would cut the stock with water at a 1/1 ratio in order to make broth.  Unless you're me.  I just use the stock as is, because I like my soup strong enough to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and also because I add enough stuff to the soup to fill the pot and then who has room for water?

Let your stock sit on the stove, on low heat.

Soup base:
I'm sure you can use potatoes for this, but I have bad blood sugar reactions to potatoes, so I do not.  You could use sweet potatoes too.  I either use turnips or rutabaga; turnips give a savory flavor, but rutabaga has become my favorite:  mildly sweet and savory at once.
Peel and chop your whatever-stiff-starchy-vegetable-you-picked into chunks.  Beware rutabaga: do NOT try to cut a large one in half before chopping!  IT WILL EAT YOUR KNIFE AND NEVER RELINQUISH IT.  Just slice it.
Fry the chunks in olive oil until you see lots of nice browning and the pieces are soft.  Fry the DAYLIGHTS out of the stuff.
Put the fried chunks into a blender.
If you prefer (and I always do), fry up some white sliced mushrooms as well, and add them to the blender.
Add around two cups of water, and puree the whole thing.  You may have to push it around to get the blender to do all of it, depending on how good your machine is.  (I have a new blender.  It purees like a boss.)  Add more water if it is just WAY too uncooperative.
Taste a little bit of this to make sure that it's awesome.  Try not to eat it directly out of the blender.  Seriously.  It's that good.
I often make this in batches and freeze those, too, because it's one of the more time-consuming parts of the soup.

Pour the glop into the soup and stir until there are no lumps.

Soup ingredients that I use:
- pretty much a whole bag of carrots, sliced
- one large zucchini, halved and sliced
- a bunch of green onions, chopped
I've also added eggplant and squash and gotten fine results.  I don't like root onions in this, but you might.  Celery works, too.  Whatever.
Fry everything.  START WITH THE CARROTS.  They will take forever to fry, and then once they're finally starting to brown, they'll burn easily, so take care.  Once you have fried them into submission, plop them into the soup.
Do any other hard veggies, just the same way.
Delicate veggies like zucchini, fry at the end; you can mix the green onions and zucchini as they brown at about the same rate.  Now, I cover the carrots and rutabaga as I fry them, but I leave wetter veggies uncovered so that they dry a little as they brown.

There are three options, here:
- you spiced the broth; why bother with anything other than salt at this point?
- take the spices you want and boil them, and then add the spiced water to the soup
- or, just do what I do:  Take a handful of whole coriander, a tiny dash of whole cumin, a little whole fennel, some whole caraway, a handful of dried whole rosemary (or chopped fresh), and other stuff.  Crunch it up a bit with a mortar & pestle (or a bowl and the flat of a spoon), and then fry it to death.  Dump the whole mess into the soup.
Your choice depends on how herby/spicey you like your soup.  I personally don't mind the feel of seeds and rosemary bits here and there, and I LOVE biting into whole coriander seeds and getting that little burst of flavor.

Taste the soup to consider your mix of spices.  You'll probably need to add more salt.

And THEN you add the chicken, stirring carefully so as not to tear it to shreds.

Let the soup simmer for a while and become wonderful.

Eat soup for the next three days.
Random Human Female: chefwithered_shadow on January 9th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
That. Sounds. Amazing.