Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Homemade Chicken Soup

Early Spring seems to be the time my kids get colds. They survive the winter without so much as a sniffle, but bring on the change in the weather and excess pollen... and BAM, we have sick children in this house.

When I was a kid, if you got a cold you were almost guaranteed to be having chicken soup for dinner, and my parents didn't mess around... Campbell's was not an option. If you were sick, you were getting the real deal, a whole chicken, onions, celery, garlic and herbs simmered until cooked through, the meat removed and the bones returned to the pot until a rich stock was created. The aroma coming from the kitchen could cut through the worst stuffy nose and begin to comfort you long before it was ready to eat. To this day I still crave this soup when I need some comfort, but now I have to make it myself, and I gladly do so. My kids have picked up on just how comforting this soup is and without fail will ask for it when they don't feel well.

This is another one of those recipes I was taught to make by eyeballing ingredients, and it's very forgiving... so you can't really mess it up by adding more of this or less of that... it's just done to your taste. I'm just going to give you the basics, and let you take it from there.

1 whole fryer chicken, about 4 lbs
water to cover the chicken
4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 large onions, quartered
3 large carrots, cut in large chunks
2 celery stalks, with leaves, cut in large pieces
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup white whine
1 lb baby carrots, cut in half inch pieces
1/2 bag frozen green beans
1/2 bag frozen peas
1/2 bag frozen corn
16 oz bag medium egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste

Remove giblets from chicken cavity an rinse chicken. Place chicken, onions, garlic, celery, carrot chunks, wine, thyme and bay leaf in large stock pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Remove chicken from pot and remove as much meat as possible, chopping into bite size pieces, cover meat and set aside in refrigerator until ready to use. Return chicken carcass to pot with white wine, and continue to simmer until stock is reduced and becomes a nice golden color, about 1 more hour. Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.

Return strained stock to pan and add baby carrots, simmer for 5 minutes. Add in egg noodles and continue to cook 5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and seasoning to taste, let simmer until vegetables are tender but still retain some of their color and noodles are cooked through. Add reserved chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper, allow to stand covered for 20 minutes and serve.

Corn Chowder

One thing I'm always on the lookout for is a recipe that's inexpensive, quick, makes enough for leftovers. and still tastes GOOD as leftovers. These types of recipes seem to be difficult for me to find for a few reasons, mostly because with 4 kids in the house, a recipe has to make a lot for there to be leftovers (which can cut into the inexpensive requirement) but also because I'm not too crazy about the way a lot of foods taste reheated. Soups, however, fit the bill nicely, and I tend to make them year round (central a/c is wonderful if you're a soup lover in the middle of the FL summer!).

Corn Chowder is a recipe I grew up on, it's a bit of a New England staple I suppose, great on a cold night or even on cooler summer nights when the local corn harvest is readily available. My Mom made this frequently, probably for many of the reasons I do, and I've never grown tired of it. There are a lot of "fancier" recipes out there for corn chowder, but to me this simple version stands up to all of them and is still my favorite.

6-8 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 Tbs butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans creamed corn (or 2 packages frozen)
1 bag frozen corn (not creamed)
4-5 large potatoes, cubed and boiled in salted water til tender
2 cups half and half
whole milk
1/2 tsp onion salt
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
chopped green onions (optional)

In a large, heavy pan (I use a 6 qt) cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels, and crumble when cool. Set aside.

Drain off some bacon grease, leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium if you cooked the bacon at a higher temp, and add butter. When butter is melted add chopped onions and cook until soft. Add frozen corn and saute until heated through. Add in creamed corn and potatoes, mix well. Stir in half and half, sugar, crumbled bacon (reserving some for garnish if you like) and onion salt, stirring until heated through. Add milk to desired consistency (this should be a bit on the thin side) and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through but do not allow to boil. Let stand covered for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes (this allows the flavors to develop a bit more). Garnish with green onions and remaining bacon when serving if desired.