Posts Tagged ‘chicken soup’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: The Chicken and The Hen

March 31, 2015

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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.

Enjoy!

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Soup Chickens

October 21, 2014

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It’s flu season, and it’s arrived with a vengeance! Nothing is more soothing than a bowl of savory chicken soup.

The secret to a great stock, is the type of chicken used. Free range chickens tend to be leaner and better cared for than others, but often yield a a bland stock. Ask your butcher to give you a “soup chicken.”

A soup chicken is a nice way of describing a older hen, who is past her egg laying prime. Although farmers no longer find her useful, this old bird makes a wonderful soup. (Is anyone else getting a little sad here?) While the meat can be a bit tough when roasted, it tends be sturdy enough to stay on the bones during hours of simmering on the stove.

Rich and Savory Chicken Stock:

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and place in a large stockpot filled with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, and skim off the brownish foam that collects around the surface of the pot. Add several peeled carrots and stalks of celery cut into 2 or 3″ chunks, a big handful of parsley, 1 or 2 peeled and quartered onions and 1 or 2 peeled and chunked parsnips.
Allow it to simmer on the stove, covered for several hours,until the stock is golden, and richly flavored. Strain out all of the chicken and vegetables and return the stock to the pot. Cool, and refrigerate overnight to allow the excess fat to rise to the top and solidify. Skim off the fat. A very rich stock will be slightly congealed. If you feel the stock is not flavorful enough, reduce it on the stove to allow it to enrich. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you like, dice the soup carrots and some of the chicken meat and toss it back into the broth before eating.

Chicken broth freezes well. Check out our posts on skimming the fat, and freezing in mason jars.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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A Different Kind of Medicine

September 22, 2014

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A friend who struggled with a long term illness taught me a valuable lesson in dealing those who are going through difficult times. We have the tendency to tell the person who is ill, or in mourning to “Let us know if you need anything.” While well intentioned, this places the burden on the person we most want to help, by forcing them to reach out to us and ask. Her alternative suggestion mirrored that very successful Nike campaign: JUST DO IT!

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Today, I am following her advice, and preparing a package for a friend who has recently undergone surgery.

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Nothing is better when you are under the weather than homemade chicken soup, which soothes the body and the soul.  I’m delivering it packaged in individual servings, which can be tossed in the freezer for another day, or microwaved in the container while in the hospital. Glass jars make a pretty presentation and are a healthier way to package food than plastic.

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Next time you want to help someone who is ill, stifle the urge to ask what you can do for them, and just do it!

 

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Happy New Year!

September 17, 2012

Why does Jewish “comfort food” leave me so uncomfortable?

Last night marked the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. As always, it is celebrated with way too much heavy food! I spent the whole day in the kitchen preparing for our big meal.

We started our feast with chicken soup, accompanied by both fluffy matzoh balls and kreplach; a meat-filled dumpling that goes into the soup. Ours featured chicken and was a big hit!


It was followed by a gratuitous salad that nobody ate but me, and a brisket roasted with tomatoes,onions, carrots, celery and red wine.

We had potato pancakes with homemade applesauce as a side dish and a traditional challah bread.

For dessert, there was a honey cake with fresh whipped cream.

I skipped all the meat, but filled up on more carbs at one meal than I generally eat for a whole month, or two! That and a little (okay,more than just a little) red wine, has left me stuffed to the gills.

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead!

Unrecipe of the Week

March 29, 2010

It doesn’t need to be Passover to enjoy a bowl of chicken soup with matzo balls.

As winter descends on the east coast yet again, this recipe provides the ultimate in comfort food. Many matzo balls are dense, but these are light, fluffy and delicious!
They are so easy to make that it is silly not to enjoy them more often.

Matzo Balls

Beat 4 eggs

Add ¼ cup of water or seltzer, ¼ cup of canola oil and teaspoon of salt.

Sprinkle in a dash of black pepper.

Add 1 cup of matzo meal and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes

With wet hands, form balls about 1’ to 1 ¼” in diameter and drop them into boiling broth. Form them gently; don’t over work them.

Simmer for 20- 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with chicken soup.

ENJOY!

(see our homemade chicken soup recipe posted on 9/23/09)

Unrecipe of the Week

September 23, 2009

Chicken Soup

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The first cold of the season has officially infiltrated our home, signaling the time is right for homemade chicken soup.
It’s simple to make, and soothes our stuffy noses and our soul.

Take a whole chicken and have it cut in quarters.

Put the chicken into a large stock pot, fill it 3/4 way up with water and bring it to a boil.

When the mixture starts to boil, skim off the foam that rises to the surface.

Add a large onion cut into quarters, a handful of parsley, and carrots, celery and one or 2 parsnips, all cut into 2″ chunks.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce the heat so that the soup is gently boiling.

Cook for 3 to 4 hours.

Strain the soup to remove all of the chicken and vegetables. Refridgerate the broth until the fat comes to the top and solidifies. Skim this off  before serving.

To serve, reheat the broth until boiling. Shred the chicken, discarding the skin and bones and add it to the soup. The carrots can be diced and added back in as well. Discard all of the other vegetables. Add cooked noodles or matza balls as desired,

The soup freezes well and can be used as needed. The plain broth is a great base for all kinds of other soups.

Enjoy!

Hint: Did you know that some chickens are better than others for soup making? Ask your butcher for a “soup chicken” which is specifically an older hen. Free range chickens, although great for roasting, don’t have enough fat to make a tasty soup.

photo: Glasshouse Images


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