Posts Tagged ‘broth’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: The Chicken and The Hen

March 31, 2015


Last week, I decided to make a pot of chicken soup. I asked my husband to go to the butcher to purchase a soup chicken, which is often an old hen. Respect your elders people, because you are about to hear a tale touting the superiority of the older female.

He ordered the soup chicken and the butcher asked if he wanted a regular chicken, or an old hen. Horrified by the thought of the latter, he opted for the chicken. After cooking the soup for several hours with lots of carrots, onions, parsley, parsnip and celery, the soup seemed thin and  a little bit on the bland side. I put it in jars in the freezer to use another time.

This week, he went back to the butcher and requested the old hen. Same vegetables, same cooking time. This pot of soup is so rich that it fully congealed after it was chilled. A thick layer of fat was skimmed off leaving me a deep golden soup that is full bodied. I placed it in the freezer next to the other stock, and the difference is boldly apparent.

Forgive the bad photo, but a picture paints a thousand words! The "hen" soup is on the left.

Forgive the bad photo, but a picture paints a thousand words! The “hen” soup is on the left.

The quality of the ingredients makes all the difference in the outcome of the dish. As a young cook, I thought that meant using an organic, free range chicken to make soup. I may have gotten the organic part right, but the free range chicken, while superior for eating, lacked the fat and meatiness of the aged hen, which can be a bit tough and stringy after cooking.

Should you make soup that turns out lackluster, there are a few things you can do to salvage it.

Reduce it: After straining out the meat and vegetables, boil the liquid until until it reduces by about 25% or more. This will obviously yield you less, but it will be more flavorful.

Cheat: Add some chicken bouillon and cook it for a bit. It will give you some taste, but may make it a bit salty. Look for the best boullion you can find. Whole Foods carries some that are low sodium and made of more natural ingredients. You can also mix some boxed chicken stock into it to give it more taste.

If it is really bland, freeze it in small containers and use it in place of cooking water for rice, vegetables and other things that might benefit from a little extra something. One man’s bland soup is another man’s tasty cooking water.


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Unrecipe of the Week: Risotto with Butternut Squash and Kale

October 5, 2012

During the week, I tend to make the same old things for dinner; salmon, shrimp, and an occasional roasted chicken from Whole Foods.  It’s fast and nutritious, but a bit dull at times.

The CSA box is pushing me outside my comfort zone, and challenging me to use what is at hand to whip up dinner.

Tonight, I used the butternut squash and kale, in a rich risotto with seared scallops on top. It was comfort food at its best. Delicious, but simple enough to allow the flavors of the farm fresh ingredients to shine.

Risotto with Butternut Squash and Kale:

Halve the squash and rub it with a little olive oil. Roast it in a hot oven for about 45 minutes, until it is soft.

Scoop out and discard the seeds, and skin, and cut the squash into small cubes. * I only used ½ of the squash. Wrap the other half up for another use.

In a large pot, sauté one small diced onion in a little olive oil and butter. Add 1 or 2 cups of Arborio rice (depending on portion size) and stir until the rice is about to brown.

Add 1cup or so of chicken or vegetable stock and white wine to the pot, and stir until it is absorbed. Keep doing this for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is tender, and almost porridge-like. It is not necessary to stir it every minute, but be careful that the liquid does not cook out while it is unattended. Stirring also helps get the desired creamy consistency.

Stir in some grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

While the rice is cooking, wash a couple of handfuls of the kale and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Sauté it in a bit of olive oil with some salt and pepper for a couple of minutes until it starts to wilt. Set aside.

Gently mix the squash and the kale into the rice mixture. Serve in bowls and enjoy!

Seared scallops optional.

Unrecipe of the Week

October 1, 2012

Often the simplest preparations are the best. That was certainly the case with Friday night’s squash soup.

It was a rainy evening in New York City and my vegetable basket was filled with random goodies; the perfect scenario for a warm, comforting soup.

I cut a butternut squash into large pieces, drizzled them with olive oil so they didn’t dry out, and roasted them in a hot oven for about 25-30 minutes, until they were soft and caramelized.

In the meantime, I sautéed an onion in a little olive oil and added the chunks of peeled and seeded pattypan squash.

I covered the vegetables with broth, (chicken or vegetable broth will do) and simmered it until the squash was soft.
I removed and discarded the skin from roasted butternut squash and added it to the pan.
After simmering it for another 10 minutes or so, I pureed it, using an immersion blender. Adding a little more broth to smooth out the consistency, and seasoning it with salt, pepper and a little cayenne pepper for a bit of heat and my soup was ready.

It was creamy, rich and flavorful without any cream, or butter. The taste was all about fresh, seasonal foods, prepared in a simple manner. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and enjoy!

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