Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cooking from home: Chicken soup

Great stock is the foundation of great food.

- Max Miller (famous man, ahem)

I worked for almost a year for a fabulous restaurant called Soop in the gourmet ghetto of Berkley, California. Like the name implies it specialized in soups stews and chilies. Working there I got a firsthand lesson in making really great stocks. Vegetable, chicken, mushroom, lobster, fish, were all staples in the kitchen. The two most constantly used were chicken and vegetable broth.

So the origin of the word soup is actually from an old English dish where a thick hard dense chunk of bread is covered in the drippings from a beef roast. The bread, also called the Sop is then eaten by those who can't afford some scraps of meat. We still use the word sop to talk about sopping up the juices from a plate... Many of you readers will remember my predilections for this particular activity from the berg beef cleaning or the stump robber pork juices. It was the cheapest of peasant dishes and still one of my favorite things to eat. Sop is now Soup.

I love making broth, it's using waste, scrap, and the cheapest of vegetables to extract flavor texture and the very soul of the ingredients.

It starts out ugly:
Then becomes kind of beautiful:
Then gets kind of ugly again:
This hellbroth of spent bones, vegetables and biomass must then be carefully strained through a chinois if possible, or the smallest strainer you have. A chinois is a conical strainer that looks like a screen door was made into a strainer. It'll remove all the little chunks of herbs and other unidentifiable flotsam in your broth.

Lets start out at the beginning. Here is a very basic recipe for chicken broth

1 chicken carcass
3 onions quartered
5 carrots cut into 2 inch chunks
5 celery ribs cut into 2 inch chunks
salt and whole peppercorns
1 handful of parsley stems
3 turnips

But this is very very basic. You don't have any turnips? Forget um. You have a bunch of bell peppers that are going bad? Throw it in! You can use a stock pot like a garbage can for green waste. Leek greens, amazing in stock. Green tops to your carrots are just fine in stock. You can even throw in onion skins, it significantly darkens the broth and gives it another depth of flavor. Anything that is difficult to eat, just clean it and throw it in the pot.

Usually I throw everything into the pot and cover it with 2 inches of water. Boil for 3-4 hours.

If this video is working correctly it should show how it should look when it's boiling.

You don't want the stock to come up to a hard or rolling boil. It'll start extracting more bitter flavors from the vegetables and the bones won't release their proteins in the same way making the stock less flavorful. You'll also end up with a lot darker and cloudier stock. Plus you waste energy and money. A few bubbles and that's enough. (boy I hope the movie works I haven't loaded a movie before.)

Where did you get the chicken carcass? I hope you bought a whole chicken and roasted it like in my last post. Then you would have a bunch of left over meat like this:

yum. Now you are on your way to making great chicken soup!

In a large pot, I start sauteing 5 carrots 5 celery ribs and 3 medium onions in olive oil. After they have cooked down and the onions are translucent I add a tablespoon each of fresh diced rosemary, sage, and thyme. and a handful of chopped parsley. That's right the recipe was in a Simon and Garfunkel song the whole time...

I let the herbs wilt in the pot a little bit to give off their essential oils and then we add the chicken stock on top of the veggies. Once the pot is up to a boil, we take it off the heat and allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes. After that point we add in our roasted chicken still off the heat, we want the chicken to heat up but not cook any further. A little pepper at the last minute for another kick. The soup should be ladled over individual portions of cooked egg noodles or rice in the serving bowl. Enjoy. If you have leftovers they are amazing with a little more fresh parsley added on top at the last moment before serving, just to freshen it up.

If this long process seems to be a little too much for you, go ahead and stop in at Soop in Berkeley, CA where they make this chicken noodle soup fresh throughout the day. It's a lot less work. They also used to sell frozen stocks, I don't know if they still do or not. Maybe Mark will see this post and add a comment.

The recipe again in case you weren't following
Meat of 1 roasted chicken give or take a few "quality control" bites.
7 carrots
7 celery ribs
4 onions
1 T fresh rosemary
1 T fresh sage
1 T fresh thyme
1 handful fresh parsley
3-4 Quarts of homemade chicken stock.
Rice or Egg noodles individual portions.


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