Friday, April 23, 2010

Soup Redux

In my opinion soup is the most magical food ever. In fact, I used to have a soup business called "Soup de Jour”. To me every “jour” can be a “soup de jour”.

The beginning of every soup is a good broth. It's relatively easy to make and makes a difference in the finished product. If you don't feel up to making your own broth, use a low-sodium boxed broth. Today, let’s start with my recipe for a good chicken broth.

Chicken Broth

Regular chicken broth is made with raw poultry. Browned chicken broth is made with roasted poultry. I save all the bones from roasted meat in the freezer and when I have enough, I make stock.

You will need about 4-5 lbs. of poultry. You can use necks, backs, feet, a whole bird or any parts thereof, or if are really lucky and can find one - a soup chicken. (This is an old hen that has quit laying. It is very tough but makes a very flavorful broth.)

Put the poultry in a large pot and add cold water to cover. Simmer (don't boil) uncovered for about 30 minutes. Skim the foam that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon. Now add 1 large onion, 3 ribs of celery, and 2 large carrots cut into large pieces because they will all be strained out. Simmer (don't boil) partially covered for 3-4 hours. Continue to skim and add water to cover if needed. When the veggies are soft they broth is done. Check for seasoning. Strain the veggies out.

Cool the broth and put it in the fridge. When the fat has solidified on the top scrape it off and voila it is done. You now have 2 choices - either freeze it in smaller portions or make soup.

Chicken Soup

In a large pot, measure out 1 cup of broth per person and one for the pot. Chop and add 2 large carrots, 4 ribs of celery plus some leaves, 1 small parsnip and 3 fat cloves of garlic. Simmer (don't boil) for one hour or until the veggies are soft. At this stage you can add any small pasta like Orzo or the alphabet pasta. Investigate your store's pasta aisle and get whatever strikes your fancy. Add the pasta when it is done to package directions, and with a small drum roll your soup is done. If you want some chicken in the soup add some finely sliced chicken to the pot when you add the pasta. Serve with some crusty buttered bread, and you have a really great meal.

Presto Change-o

This broth is very versatile. With just a few additions you can have a soup of unlimited variety. Just use your imagination. For example, to make the chicken soup into a hearty Minestrone just add 1 – 28oz. can of diced tomatoes, two or 3 cans of beans like garbanzos, red or white kidneys, or, if it is Fall, and you can go to the market and buy fresh Romano beans and use them. The difference between the fresh and the canned is like night and day. I saw them at the market and got some as an experiment. Boy was I glad I did.

You can add cubed potatoes and also add some pot barley. Keep tasting and when the carrots and potatoes are done its soup. The crusty bread and butter are even better with this one.

To make this soup  into a gumbo, you'll need to add some kielbasa like sausage, some chicken meat, shrimp, and the much under-rated okra. (I planted some in my garden this year but can't remember where I put it as the weeds have taken over.)

If you like your Gumbo with a little kick add some red pepper flakes. Gumbo will need rice. Use whichever kind you normally use; all kinds are OK. I have never been able to make proper rice and use the quick cook stuff, so when I say any rice I mean it. When the rice is done, add a handful of raw or frozen shrimp, which the heat of the soup will cook in about 2 minutes.

You can "Asian" up the soup by adding some soy sauce, sesame oil and some red pepper flakes. Add thinly sliced onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and Bok Choy. Cook the white part of the Bok Choy first as it takes longer than the greens. When the veggies are done toss the greens in. When they are wilted, they are done. Thinly sliced chicken can be added and the heat of the soup will cook it through. If you can get your hands on some Chinese BBQ pork it makes be a very delicious addition.

Soup is a wonderful change from all the meals we normally eat as the weather starts to get colder. It is food that can be eaten at any time and just warms me up and makes me smile. In Viet Nam most of the people eat soup for breakfast. That has my vote. So try some or all of this semi-liquid deliciousness and enjoy. Food is for experimenting and enjoying. Try new food, and you'll be surprised at just how much fun it be.


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