Chicken Soup 2.0

Everyone has food aversions. Maybe you hate black licorice or think nothing could be worse than a steaming bowl of the ultimate South Texas hangover food, menudo (made with cow's stomach aka tripe). Or offal--like liver, foie gras and sweetbreads--sounds, well, awful? Or perhaps at the top of your "no thank you" foods is something as benign (and stinky) as sauerkraut or cauliflower.

The ingredient I most loathe is chicken. It's a long story, but, in my world, fowl is foul and it's been almost 30 years since I have (intentionally) eaten a bird or (purposely) consumed a dish made with chicken stock. Limiting as it sounds, I haven't let my personal opinions of this feathered fellow cloud the fact that others love this lean and clean protein. In fact, perhaps my dislike of cluckers has inspired me to conquer them culinarily.

I was about 12 or 13 when I took a leading role in preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. With so many holidays under my belt, I can make a big turkey dinner, all of the sides and desserts with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back. And let's not even talk about my winning turkey gravy.

More recently, David revered my masterful ability to break down a still slightly warm rotisserie chicken in less than five minutes where I separate the meat from the bones (for my dogs). He deftly acknowledges I make one of the best roasted chickens (pastured, of course) around and now I can add a rich, unctuous, low and slow-simmering chicken bone broth soup to my list of fowl (not foul) accomplishments.

This, my friends, is proof you can do anything you want to do.

Maybe you have read about the promises and power of bone broth. If I loved chicken, I would make a pot of bone broth every week (this vegetarian version is next on my list). So when David expressed an interest in sipping on this savory, collagen-filled, belly-soothing and nutrient-rich soup, I wanted it to be better than any boring chicken stock he has ever had--or that I have ever made.

So I started thinking about how I could improve upon this functional stock and channeled my deceased and beloved grandmother, Annie, who taught me to cook. She was an extremely dexterous soup nazi and I asked her how to make a 2016 version of chicken soup for the soul.

Here's how she guided me:
First brown the chicken and set aside. Saute the onions, carrots and celery and then deglaze the pan. Add the chicken back in, top with water and add spices and herbs. Gently simmer for 45 minutes to an hour and then remove the chicken from the pot. Separate the chicken from the bones and toss the bones back into the pot where this will all stew together for at least 6-8 hours. That, she assured me, should elevate this kitchen staple into something sublime.
In nearly five decades, I have made hundreds of versions of chicken soups, but I have never made a chicken stock like this. David was raptured by the viscosity of the soup and savored every sip inquiring when he had the last bite, "Is it gone already?" A few days later, he asked me to push the repeat button this week and his wish was granted.

It wasn't a surprise when we were talking about what to blog (because I have been absent from here for the last few weeks), he suggested we share this bone broth recipe because it's that impressive, that simple and a warm way to welcome the cooler fall days and nights.

This rich and flavorful chicken bone broth can be sipped as is, made into a traditional chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup, a heartier chicken soup loaded with vegetables or a Mexican version filled with small chunks of sweet corn cobs, cilantro, onion, peppers, tomatoes and topped with chunks of avocado. More than a broth, it is a canvas that you can paint however you like and an incredibly versatile base that needs to be a staple stock in your house.

Buen provecho!
This chicken bone broth is loaded with shredded chicken, corn kernels, carrots, onions and peppers
and is garnished with cilantro, radishes and a heavy hand of fresh squeezed lime juice.
Chicken Soup 2.0
The Cowgirl Gourmet

Print recipe

Makes about 2 quarts

This is not just an ordinary chicken stock. It's a kicked-up version of even the exquisite chicken soup my grandmother used to make. Really and here's why. Searing the chicken creates a crispy skin and helps to render some of the chicken fat to build a base of flavor. The fond on the bottom of the pot from cooking the chicken can magically add a ton of flavor when you deglaze the pan with a touch of white wine. After an hour or so, when the chicken is fully cooked in the water with the veggies, remove it and separate the chicken from the bone and then toss the bones back into the stock pot to let it gently simmer for hours and hours.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pastured chicken, about 3-4 pounds, cut into 10 pieces (including the back and neck)
Salt and pepper, to season the chicken pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, washed and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Water, about 6-10 cups, enough to cover
3-inch chunk of ginger, peeled
1-2 thumbs turmeric (about 2 inches each), peeled
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
Herb of choice, such as 1 sprig of rosemary, a few sprigs of thyme, handful of parsley, etc.

In a large soup pot over medium high heat, add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.

Liberally season the chicken pieces with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Once the oil is hot, add half of the chicken and allow to sear on one side, about 5-7 minutes. You'll know it's ready to flip when the chicken easily separates from the bottom of the pot and the skin is golden. Rotate the chicken to sear the other side. When chicken is seared on all sides, remove from the pot and set aside on a plate. Repeat until all chicken has been seared.

Now that the chicken has all been seared, there should be serious fond and flavor on the bottom of the pot. There should be enough rendered chicken fat in the pot, but add more if needed. Add the onions, stir in the oil to coat and saute 3-5 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and stir well to combine. Let cook for a few minutes and then deglaze the pan with a 1/4 cup of white wine.

Once you pour the wine, the pan will sizzle and use a big spoon to remove all of the bits of caramelized flavor on the bottom of the pot. Stir well to combine and add the chicken back into the pot. Cover with water, about 6-10 cups.

Now add the ginger, turmeric, bay leaf, peppercorns and herb. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the chicken is cooked through.
When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, carefully remove the chicken pieces, leaving the back and neck in the pot, and set aside. Let the meat cool and then begin to separate the meat from the bones. Place the chicken meat in a container and put the bones back into the pot. Continue to simmer the stock for the rest of the day, at least 6 hours and up to 8 hours, if possible.
Using a colander setting over a big bowl, strain the stock to separate the bones and overcooked veggies and herbs and spices from the rich bone broth.
Reserve the broth in glass jars and store in the refrigerator or freezer when the need for stock or a savory soup base strikes.

Other ideas for turning the broth into a meal:
  • Caldo de pollo--saute onions, peppers and tomatoes; add bone broth, corn cob chunks or frozen corn, chicken chunks and when serving, top with cilantro and diced avocado.
  • Classic chicken noodle soup--saute onions, carrots and celery; add bone broth and noodles. Add chicken and serve when it's thoroughly heated.
  • Chicken tortilla soup
  • Fragrant chicken soup with chickpeas and vegetables
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