At the end of Friday’s post, I mentioned my sick little guy – you’ve got to love pre-school, a small room filled with still developing immune systems and every germ known to man. Poor guy was pretty miserable with a yucky stomach bug that was most UN-welcome company. Thankfully, it seems to have stayed confined, especially since we will have a houseful of company this week; welcome company in this case, my mom, my aunt and one of my sisters. I am so excited for us all to be together and would very much like for it to be a healthy visit.
So sorry for the most unappetizing start, how about we switch direction to something that will make all of us feel better, Chicken Soup.
Chicken soup, like French toast, is another thing I have always made intuitively, adding in veggies I have on hand in amounts that “seem right”; a little bit of celery, onion, carrot, fresh thyme. Not surprising seeing as I learned to cook from “dump cooks” as my great-aunt used to say; “dump in a little of this, dump in a little of that”, you get the idea.
Chicken soup is a forgiving concoction that allows for you to play around a little bit. Chicken broth with give you a clearer, lighter soup broth but if you want a darker more richly flavored broth, use stock. I do make my own stock from time to time and freeze it so that I have it on hand but when I run out, I just use the good stuff from the store; just be sure it is low-sodium so that you can control the seasoning.
This is the post Thanksgiving turkey carcass stock simmering away. One of my favorite “leftovers”.
If you want to make your own stock, I highly recommend it and of course, I recommend following the Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Stock recipe.
I use rotisserie chicken from the grocery store in a pinch but have learned (yes, from Ina) that roasting your own chicken breast is the way to go. So, I roast the chicken breasts just how she taught me; bone-in, skin-on, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I am completely addicted to Herbs de Provence so I can’t help but sprinkle a little on for good measure. Completely addicted. I don’t need all of this chicken for soup but I always roast more to have on hand for salads, casseroles or whatever else I might have planned for the week.
Once the chicken is cooled, you can shred it or chop it into bite sized pieces. For the soup, two to three breasts (depending on their size) is a good amount but use as much or as little as you like; it’s your soup!
I always add fresh thyme to my soup and have been experimenting with a sprinkle of fresh parsley just before serving.
Of course, carrots, onions and celery are a must. Just a bit of trivia, the French culinary term for this trio is mirepoix. According to Wikepedia, a mirepoix (pron.: meer-PWAH) can be a combination of celery (either common pascal celery or celeriac), onions, and carrots. There are many regional mirepoix variations, which can sometimes be just one of these ingredients, or include additional spices. Mirepoix, raw, roasted or sautéed with butter or olive oil, is the flavor base for a wide variety of dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces. The three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics. I love knowing this sort of thing and yes, my “mirepoix” does have some garlic in it. I love garlic so in it goes.
Play around with the vegetables. Add leeks if you like or turnips. Here I’ve used 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks and one small onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces.
I like to saute’ my aromatics in a little bit of butter and olive oil (a couple of tablespoons of each) and a pinch of Kosher salt, just to soften them up a bit and deepen their flavors; about 5 minutes.
Add in your stock or broth (about 2 quarts) and the fresh thyme (the leaves pulled from 3 or 4 sprigs) bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the chicken and a handful of chopped parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Parsley note: my kids love homemade chicken soup. They DO NOT love the parsley added in. As Nathan says, “what ‘dis green stuff? I can’t like ‘dis green stuff.” Use parsley at your discretion or at the discretion of your pickiest eater.
If I decide to make chicken noodle soup, I’ll add in a package of linguine or wide egg noodles (I like the linguine best – just break it up a little bit) after the soup has come to a boil and then simmer for the amount of time recommended on the pasta package. If you use fresh pasta, allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes before you add the pasta as it only takes a few minutes to cook.
Give the soup a taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly.
If I am making soup to deliver to someone, I love to put it in mason jars.
It looks homemade, is easy to deliver, tucks nicely into a care package and your recipient doesn’t have to worry about returning your cookware or dishes to you. Be sure to take along a loaf of crusty bread! I put the care package above together for a friend who was recovering from surgery so flowers and a good magazine were a must.
I know there are a lot of “abouts” and “a couple of’s” and “sprinkles” and “dashes” in this recipe but that is because I want you to experiment and make it your own. Cook intuitively, to your taste, how you and your family like it. This is a soup that has to be made with love and laughter and fun. You don’t need a recipe, just a willing heart to make something warm, healthy and comforting for someone you love.
Speaking of “someone loved” … happily, my boy is feeling much better. Last night, he crawled up in my lap and snuggled in. I kissed the top of his sweet head and said to him, “I am so glad you are feeling better.” And he said to me, “I am so glad you are my mommy.” I love it when God gives us those moments. I will never forget it. I am so glad to be his mommy too and I will never make him eat chicken soup with parsley in it again.