Monday, November 17, 2008

Chicken soup for the runner's soul

Sunday was fairly overcast and cool. Why not make some homemade chicken noodle soup? Here is how to do it:

Soup is good food

What you will need:

-Celery (be sure to save some of the leaves)
-Yellow onion
-Olive oil
-Fresh thyme
-Fresh rosemary
-Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (not the curly kind)
-Herbs de Provence (dried)
-Frozen peas
-Pasta (whatever small pasta you like)

-Salt and pepper
-Oyster crackers

For the stock, take a chicken (organic is good if you can get it), along with four carrots (peeled), two stalks of celery, one yellow onion (cut in half), and a head of garlic (also cut in half). Rub the the chicken and vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes. (Just to get some color and caramelization, which will add a little hint of roasted flavor to the stock)

Everything gets thrown into a stock pot with a bouquet garni. With some kitchen string, tie together some sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, flat-leaf parsley, and some leaves from the celery. Chuck it into the pot. Pour in 10 cups of cold water. Cover the pot, bring it to a near boil, reduce to a simmer. In an hour or so, you will have a very flavorful chicken stock. (Trust me, you do this right and you will not need any bouillon or chicken base to boost the flavor)

Remove the chicken and vegetables, setting the chicken aside, allowing to cool. The vegetables have given their all, so they can be discarded. Strain the stock into another large pot. Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours so the fat will rise to the top, making for easy removal. (Or, if you live in cold climates, do as I do and use nature's refrigerator; set the whole stock pot outside on your was about 31 degrees today, so that was perfect!)

Once the fat is removed, return the stock to your large stock pot. Since the veggies that were spent and used up have been removed from the stock, I want to add some more back in. Take four carrots (peeled, sliced), two stalks of celery (diced), and saute them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes (just to release some of the liquids and aromas). Add to the stock pot. Bring to a boil (covered), and reduce to a simmer to help soften the veggies.

Remember that chicken you had cooling? Remove the meat from the chicken and chop into bite-sized pieces. By all means, do not be afraid to nibble on a few pieces of the moist, delicious chicken while you are chopping. You can't resist, can you? Anyhow, add the chicken to your simmering soup, along with a couple more sprigs of fresh thyme, a sprig of rosemary, and a couple teaspoons of dried herbs de Provence. Salt an pepper to taste. Allow to simmer.

Bring another pot of water to a boil and season the water with salt. Cook the pasta for a couple minutes less than the recommended time. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. This may seem a little involved, but I have found that if you add dried pasta directly to the soup and allow it to cook, it becomes kind of mushy. By cooking and cooling the pasta before adding it to the soup, the noodles seem to maintain their integrity and will retain a better texture. (Especially for leftovers the next day!)

A few minutes before you are ready to serve, add your pasta and the frozen peas to the soup. Allow to heat through, and you are ready to go. Garnish with some of that fresh parsley you have. Serve with oyster crackers. Enjoy a steaming bowl while watching football on a chilly Sunday evening.

Yours in chickeny goodness,

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