Sunday, July 14, 2013

Recipes I Don't Follow Very Well: Chicken Soup

Recipes are good.  Recipes help me get started with something new, provide a starting point.  But with the exception of a very few - like for jellies and some baked goods - I don't follow them.

I'm especially bad at following them when it comes to soups, stews, and meals I tend to make in bulk so there are lunches and leftovers.  Today, I mentioned I was making all kinds of soups and some chicken enchiladas - basically to get ahead for work season, when I'm often too tired to make a meal, and in the case of the potato soup, to use up the wrinkly potatoes before they go bad.

I really hate wrinkly potatoes.  I know they're still good inside, but... *shudder*.

So I said I would give up my recipes for the foods yesterday and today - such as they are.  I encourage people to use these as a starting place, and adapt them to their own tastes, much as I do.

Chicken Soup

I'm going to sound like an old recipe book, but it's what I do...

First, you take a whole chicken. I don't even bother pulling the "gut" parts out of the chicken unless they are in one of those stupid papery bags you cannot tear open easily - bah.

Take the whole chicken,  put it in a large stock pot, fill the pot with water and put it on the stove to boil.  After it boils, turn it down to a simmer - usually 3 or 4 on your stove dial - and walk away.  Seriously.  Let that hen cook and cook and cook.  If I mean for the soup to be eaten the same day, I'll only let it cook 2-3 hours.  But ideally, it needs to be cooked until its falling apart.  I've even been known to cook the chicken as much as 15-20 hours over three days, putting it in the fridge overnight.

As I was making it last night, I thought that you could cook the chicken in the crockpot with lots of fluids on the slowest setting you have.  Mine has a 10 hour setting, and when you take the chicken out, it falls right apart.  IMO, that's the goal.

So, after you cook the chicken until it is fully cooked, take it out of the pot and put it in a dish to cool.  If it is to the falling apart stage, take a slotted spoon and scoop all the rest out.

When the chicken is cool, start tearing it apart. Literally.  Pull the skin off and put it aside for your dogs or cats or chickens - they love that stuff.  I leave it out because I'm rather squicky about skin in my soup.   I tear the chicken apart by hand, into bite sized pieces, the pieces going back into the pot.  I prefer this method because I can get into all the small spaces and get the most meat off the bird as possible.  You can't do that by cutting it off with a knife.

If so inclined, give the chicken carcass to your chickens, if you have them, after the bones are completely cool.  The chickens love it, it gives them extra protein.  But do NOT give it to your dogs or cats - the bones break easily and have sharp edges, causing you a seriously expensive trip to the vet and your pet a great deal of pain and suffering.

OK - back to the soup.  You have a lovely pot of broth, you've thrown in the torn off meat.

Now, add a  medium sized chopped up onion.

Turn the pot back on again to medium heat.

Add spices - what I usually add is Thyme, Marjoram and Rosemary.  Sometimes I add an Italian Seasonings mix.  Depends on the flavor I want.    I basically stand over the pot and shake some in til it looks right to me.

I also tend to add some Tone's soup base - chicken, of course.  The same measuring method as above.

Cook it for another hour until you can smell the spices cooking in.

Add some chopped up carrots. Cook until the carrots are soft but not mushy.

And this is basically my recipe.  Sometimes I add a big bag of frozen mixed veggies.  Other times, I only add corn.  Sometimes, no corn either -but always carrots.  Don't ask me why.

Sometimes, I also cook up noodles and serve it with noodles - or rice. Anything from large egg noodles to these little thin noodles I found at the Mexican mart at the flea market.

I've even put sour cream into a pot of chicken soup, making it a creamy soup. It was pretty good!

NEVER freeze the noodles in the soup.They turn to mush when you thaw and reheat the soup.  Nasty.  You CAN freeze cooked noodles - cook them to al dente status, and put them fully drained into a zippie bag and into the freezer. Use within a couple of months, or they get freezer burn and are unhappy to eat.

Also, taste it along the way - only you know exactly how you want it to be, and tasting is the ONLY way to get it here.  If the liquid gets low, add more water. If it is not savory enough, add more spices a bit at a time, letting it cook for several minutes and then tasting it again.

The best soup is the one you take the time with.

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