Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time for Soup!

With the temperature outside settling in at or below freezing, I need to get warm nutritious food to the table for my DH when he gets home from a long day of work. Fortunately, he is a soup eater, and thankfully, I have a good supply of roasted poultry bones and vegetable odds and ends to make stock. Don't think you can make stock and then serve soup the same day. It's at least a two-day adventure.

Whenever I roast bone-in chicken or turkey, I always save the bones for making stock. Start by thawing them from the night before, then lay the thawed bones out in a roasting pan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil so they don't stick to the pan. Roast them at 325 to 350 degrees. Once they're nice and brown, dump the mess into your soup kettle and cover with half water and half store-bought stock (I like Trader Joe's brand but you can use anything that doesn't have MSG in it). Add one or two yellow onions (depending on their size and your tastebuds), skin on (that adds a nice color to the stock), and a crown of garlic (for its antibiotic properties as well as for your palate!). Simmer for a few hours until you begin to see some body to the stock and it starts tasting like something. Strain the pot into another large pot (I use my 13 quart bread bowl) and pick the bones clean of meat, setting the meat aside, and return the stock to the pot.

Next, wash and trim some carrots and turnips and cut into large chunks. Wash a few stalks of celery and trim the bottom, and cut into large pieces. Add this to the stock and continue to simmer for an hour or so. Strain the vegetables as you did the bones and return the stock to the pot. Taste the stock and see if you're getting anywhere. If you think it's rich enough, then strain it and store it in half-gallon glass jars overnight in the fridge. You'll do this to skim off the fat at the top, though you should notice your broth has a nice gelatinous texture to it. Don't be alarmed. It's supposed to be this way, as the process of using the bones draws out the mineral-rich marrow that you need to eat. If you don't think it's got enough flavor yet, then you need to add some brine-soaked chicken breasts (one or two should suffice) and continue simmering until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. If you still aren't satisfied with the stock, then add some canned whole tomatoes and simmer some more. Tomatoes often do the trick. When the chicken has cooled, remove it from the bones, put the bones and skin and gristle in a freezer bag and toss into the deep freeze, and chop the meat into soup-sized bites. Add to the previously deboned chicken and refrigerate until later.

Once you have refrigerated the stock overnight and have removed the fat layer from the top (you can save this if you wish to use similarly to what people use bacon fat for, just make sure you dry it off from any stock residue and keep in a tightly sealed container in the fridge and use it up within a week), then you're ready to make soup. I start by sauteeing onion and garlic in my stock pot in EVOO until golden, then I add my herbs (fresh, hopefully, from your garden, but if it's already gone by then why don't you have some growing in the kitchen? No matter, you can used dried.) and toss them thoroughly with the onions and garlic. Next, I add the stock and get it to simmering. Since my DH does not eat pasta, I usually fix my soup with potatoes. For soup, I like russets but you can use what you like. Keep in mind the more mealy, starchy ones will make your broth more thick as they cook.

Unless they're organically grown, you need to peel your potatoes of any skin and underlying green which tastes awful and will bitter your soup. Cut into bite-sized pieces and toss them in the kettle. Do the same for a portion of carrots. I have used fresh tomatoes, fresh-roasted Anaheim chile peppers, frozen corn, and lima beans to round out the vegetable matter. Once the carrots and potatoes are done, toss in the chicken to heat it through. You can serve it with a good helping of homemade bread and room-temperature butter and enjoy yourself a fine meal on a cold night.

Note:  If you don't have a source for brine soaked poultry, you can learn to draw the blood out of the meat by following the instructions here: