Posts Tagged ‘chicken stock’

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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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Soup Chickens

October 21, 2014


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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Unrecipe of the Week: Butternut Squash Soup

November 20, 2013

The weather is changing and winter is in the air. For me, that spells the beginning of soup season. I used to start Thanksgiving dinner with pumpkin or butternut squash soup. As the crowd grew, and the accompanying extra dishes grew, I pulled back. This year, I am craving a warm start to the meal, and this soup fills the bill. I will serve it in teacups, to prevent everyone from filling up before the main event!


Although the “unrecipe” calls for butternut squash, feel free to substitute fresh pumpkin.

This recipe serves 4-6 people.

Savory Butternut Squash Soup:

Finely chop the white and light green part of one leek, and saute it in butter or olive oil, until softened but not browned. Add 3-4 pounds of butternut squash, peeled and cubed*,  1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 tablespoons of curry powder, and  2 tablespoon of cumin, and continue to stir for a few minutes to allow the ingredients to merge. Season with salt and black pepper. Add a few tablespoons of Sherry, and cook long enough for it to evaporate into the mixture.

Add about 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, (enough to fully cover the squash), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until the squash is soft.

Puree the soup in a blender, or use an immersion blender until smooth. Add more stock if the soup is getting too thick. Taste, and correct seasonings if necessary. Stir in a little more Sherry if desired, when ready to serve.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and enjoy!

* many specialty food markets, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have already peeled and cubed butternut squash, which makes this much easier to make!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Winter Comfort

February 15, 2013


The weather in New York has been cold and miserable. Last night’s blizzard left us thankfully unscathed, but we are in the mood for hunkering down at home. What is more soothing on a lazy winter night than the all-American classic, tomato soup and grilled cheese?
This simple soup has few ingredients and lots of taste. The grilled cheese croutons offer an unexpected twist. It is quick enough for a weeknight meal tomorrow’s lunch, with a little Parmesan cheese, instead of the croutons.

For the Tomato Soup:

Saute a diced onion and a few diced cloves of garlic in olive oil until soft and transparent. Add about 52 oz. (2 tetra packs or large cans ) chopped tomatoes and about 36 oz.vegetable or chicken stock. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and herbs. I added a bay leaf, and some cayenne pepper for a little heat. Oregano and basil are also nice touches. It’s an unrecipe…use whatever flavors you like to season the soup. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Puree the soup at return it to the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little cream to the soup if desired. Enjoy with grilled cheese croutons.

Grilled Cheese Croutons:

Butter the bread of your choice. Fill sandwiches with cheese. Gruyere adds a sophisticated jolt of flavor, but good old cheddar is fine too. A used a shredded 4 cheese blend that I had on hand. Grill the sandwiches on both sides until they are golden brown, and the cheese is melted inside. Cut into 6 or 8 squares and serve in the soup.


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