Glory of glories: Syd, the Practiced Chef of Great Titles, has offered to guest blog about the Best Chicken Soup You Ever Put In Your Face. We tried taking pictures, but halfway through I realized that I could only post so many pictures because blogspot is a troglodyte, so then I decided to create a means of circumventing this minor setback. Then stuff with the soup got serious and we forgot about the camera and taking pictures, and it smelled so good that we drove the entire vat of it up the road to Syd's parents' place, where we ate the whole damn lot of it.
So no pictures. But you do get words. And that's nice.
Now, without further ado...
I am the Syd. Watch me cook.
I often wonder why so many people have bypassed making soup. I'm not talking about the stuff in the can, though that is often necessary when you want to recreate the casseroles of your heady youth. I'm talking about homemade soup, simmered on the stove while you do whatever else it is that you do, making your house smell amazing and your stomach growl and coaxing the cats out of their post-catnip torpor to come wind around your legs in an attempt to commit matricide. The good kind of soup.
Depending on what you put in it, soup is also inexpensive. You can make a vat of it and not expend a huge amount of effort or a large amount of money. It is warm and comforting and nourishing, for much less cash than you would spend if you were getting McFood for your starving tweens. Not that I have starving tweens, unless my sister and her house-destroying typhoon of a friend are crashing on my futon.
Anyway! On with the foodness. I have two soup pots, neither of which cost me an exorbitant sum. One was a perfectly serviceable yard sale find, and is four quarts. The other is a nine and a half quart enamelware pot that was bought for maybe ten dollars at America's favorite big box retailer. Beggars can't be choosers. The bigger pot is the one I use for chicken soup, because, hello, vat of homemade chicken soup. Boycott Campbells! Down with the man!
Because everybody should have good soup, here is the recipe.
The Best Chicken Soup You Ever Put In Your Face
1 whole yellow onion
2 medium bunches celery
1 one pound bag carrots
1 tbs. minced garlic, or to taste
1 pkg. of 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 medium to large russet potatoes
1 pkg. fresh baby dill
2 tsp. poultry seasoning (optional)
2 to 3 tbs. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Korean hot chile paste (optional)
2 to 3 bay leaves (totally NECESSARY! Just kidding. Optional.)
Olive or other oil, for sauteing veggies
No, there isn't any chicken stock, or broth, or bullion. See all that vegetable mass at the top? That is what makes your soup, well, soup. I have bullion, but really, all you're paying for is flavored salt, and the real stuff tastes better, as well as being better for you. If that seems like a lot of salt, remember that this is going in a nine and a half quart pot. If you don't have a nine and a half quart pot, go halfsies on everything, and less than half on the pepper and chile paste. Kosher salt is also a larger crystal salt, and takes more to season than plain 'ol iodized. If all you have is the cardboard tube of Mortons, back waaay off of my measurement, and work your way up to a saltiness that works for you.
First, I throw some olive oil (not EVOO, screw you, Rachael Ray) or whatever other cooking oil you may have on hand in the bottom of your designated soup pot. Probably about a tablespoon, maybe a little more. Then, do all the prep work on your veggies. Peel and chop your onion (don't buy the pre-peeled, or even worse, the pre-cut; they tack on huge fees for convenience over something that isn't that hard to do). I would say about a half inch dice, maybe a little more; you aren't looking for neat and tidy, just in chunks. Chop the carrots and celery at about the same size as the onion, so that will all cook at about the same rate.
The easiest way I have found to do carrots, which are fibrous and hard to cut, is to cut off the ends, then halve them lengthwise before you try to chop them. Fewer carrot pieces go flying across the kitchen that way. Celery, likewise, is easier if you just cut the whole end off of the bunch, then trim off the leaves. After that, you can chop several stalks at once. No need to go through the de-stringing business; they cook down nice and mellow with or without strings.
Throw your veggies, about a third of your salt, your pepper, and your garlic in the bottom of the pot with the oil, and turn the heat up to a little over medium. You are going to saute now, like zee professional chef on zee Fud Neetwork, turning your vegetables with a spatula and stirring them to keep them from scorching on the bottom. Aren't you fancy!
Once your onion and celery are starting to get soft, and your kitchen smells like heaven, throw about eight cups of hot water in your pot. In this moment, add more salt, your poultry seasoning, the bay leaves, and the hot chile paste. This is just enough chile paste to make your nose run a little while you eat it; if you like heat, up it to a full teaspoon. That might not seem like a lot compared to the amount of salt, but this stuff is dynamite in a chicken-decorated jar. It gives a flavor that cayenne and hot sauce just can't compare with, so if you like heat, I recommend you grab a jar the next time you have a little cash to spare. It isn't very expensive, maybe two dollars U.S., and a jar lasts absolutely forever in the refrigerator.
After you dump in all that stuff, cover your pot while you chop the baby dill. Pull out any big stems, and cut it up pretty fine. Dill is one of my few indulgences when I am on a lean budget. A package is less than three dollars, which is easy to make room for in the budget. Think about it the next time you reach for a soda at a gas station. You could have amazing soup if you put that bottle of sugar water back on the rack.
Throw in your dill, and let all of that come together in a boil over medium heat. Covering the pot makes this happen faster, even if you tend to peek. Now, I know what you're thinking; the title of this recipe has the word chicken in it. The recipe itself calls for chicken. Where's the cluck-cluck? Answer: it's still in the fridge. We are making a poaching liquid for the chicken. All of your seasonings and good flavors from the veggies will permeate your chosen cut of Mr. Leghorn and make it tender and flavorful. Good poaching happens with a simmer, not a full on boil, which will make your bird tough. When you have a good steady simmer, taste your broth to adjust seasonings, then add your chicken breasts, still whole, straight to the pot. Clap the lid back on. Resist the urge to fidget. Go play video games or blog for half an hour or so, maybe forty five minutes.
Once you have beaten the temple or gotten your blog on, come back to the kitchen. Make a snack, because the suspense and the smell are killing you, then take the chicken out of the pot and put it on a plate, covering it with plastic wrap or foil. You have to let it rest before you can handle it, because boiling stuff is kind of hot, you know.
Eat your snack while you wait for the chicken to cool, then shred or chop it, and add it back to the pot. Mmm. Chickeny goodness. Now, peel your potatoes, and cut them approximately the same size as the rest of your vegetables. Once the soup is simmering again, add in the potatoes and stir. I use potatoes because I don't like how egg noodles get slimy overnight, and I fully intend to eat this stuff for a week. If you don't mind the slime, noodle away! Just make sure you let the soup simmer for fifteen or twenty minutes before you add them, to let the flavors combine.
Once the potatoes (or noodles, for you starch purists) are fork tender, salt again to taste, and you're done! Eat it!
The best thing about this recipe: I spent about ten dollars to make it, and it will comfortably feed five people with leftovers.
Hope you enjoyed. This soup is a recipe I swear will cure your cold. Just make it and try it. You'll see. Then you'll say, I should never have doubted that website I found!