Friday, June 11, 2010

fof: chicken soup

As I mentioned in my one and only other post this week, things have been a bit of a challenge around here on almost every front. Cooking has been pretty simple and easy this week... and this meal is no exception, though it did require a day at home. Since I have those in spades this week, it was the perfect solution.

Wednesday is a crazy day around here schedule-wise, and so the beginning of the school year, I decreed that it was officially to be soup and sandwich day. I usually bought a few cans of hearty soup, tossed them in the crock pot to warm up sometime in the afternoon, and whenever we eventually made it to the table, we had hot soup with little effort, and I had a virtually worry-free dinner at least one day a week. (Yes, my family still complained. Seems it's in their genes. I have absolutely no idea who they got this trait from.)

Soup season is drawing to a close -- at least hot soup -- but Wednesday was a grey rainy day around these parts, and I was in sticker shock at the price of non-sale soup. I decided to make my own to see if I could beat the price, taste and nutrition of store-bought, since I had a rare Wednesday afternoon at home.

I started with three stalks of celery (including leaves); two quartered onions; four peeled and quartered carrots; two chicken legs and thighs (skin removed, but dark meat is the best, I learned the hard way not to bother with deboned chicken breasts); and fresh parsley; salt, bay leaves and peppercorns.

And water, of course.

I put it on a low boil, and went to do other things. After a while, I noticed the amazingly rich aroma of chicken stock in the making, spreading throughout the house. It was almost a physical presence, it was so full and complete. No wonder people think that it has medicinal properties. With a smell like that, how could it not be good for you?

The trick to making nice broth is to check it every so often, and skim off the grey scum that rises to the top as it cooks. Taking the skin off the meat first seems to help with the amount of ickiness that is produced.

The disgusting dishwater phase...

After a couple of hours, I check the meat for doneness. If it is tender and falling off the bone, my stock is finished. I take out the meat, then strain the remaining stock through a mesh strainer. I don't put those vegetables back in the soup. I chop up some fresh carrot and celery slices, and add them to the broth in a clean pot. It goes on a low simmer for a few hours to let it cook down and concentrate the flavors even further. About twenty minutes before serving, I add cooked diced chicken breast (I use the soup chicken for something else) and egg noodles, and then serve up a bowl of comfort.

Mmm mmm good.

I know that you are all shaking your head at my faux-food post: Really? This is all about making chicken soup? But sometimes I think it helps in this age of uber-convenience to remember that it isn't really that hard or that much effort to make these things from scratch. It comes down to that elusive quantity: time. That's what I am buying when I snap up those cans. I am not necessarily buying a healthy meal for my family -- my boys thought home-made soup was on the watery side, I suspect because of the much lower sodium content than their tastebuds are used to. I am certainly not saving any money, or at least not much, with the cans.

Though I have no doubt that next week I will be opening up those cans, in the interest of time.


  1. I love homemade chicken broth!! I keep the bones from our store-bought rotisserie chickens (and the occasional homemade one) in a ziploc bag in the freezer. In another ziploc, I throw carrot tops, onion skins, celery leaves, and whatever other vegetable scraps seem like a good idea. Then when I feel like making broth, I dump bones & veggie scraps in the crockpot at bedtime with water, and let it go on low overnight. Smells great when I wake up--although it's always a little disconcerting to smell "dinner" smells that early!

  2. Oooh, I think you have beaten me hollow on the cost-savings part. Never thought to use the rotisserie chicken bones after I pick them clean. Clearly should have tossed the onion skins in too! And the crock pot works as well as the burner? Geez, why didn't I think of trying that?

  3. LOL! Your family would *really* not like my soup, because I don't add any salt at all. The natural salts in the chicken and veggies are plenty for me!

    I like to make a big pot of soup and then freeze individual servings in those quart freezer containers. When I want a bowl of soup I just put the soup cube in a sauce pan, add whatever veggies I want, and let it melt as it cooks. Takes about 10 minutes or so to melt and start bubbling away.