Stormy weather, the first onslaught of the Autumn season, returned last night. With Wind battering the corners and windows of the house, driving huge raindrops along with its force, the time was right for Chicken Soup.
Rain running down the windows in rivulets left little tracks...showing me just how dusty the windows were! We have endured a long, dry spell with attendant hot, sunny weather. This Rain was long overdue...Tofino, B.C. closed its businesses due to lack of water, starting this Friday.
But so far, I still had all the freshest ingredients on hand to make this soup; we still had water. Chicken soup, more than any other, has always meant comfort to me...I fed it to my kids when they were in need of something "extra", or if they were suffering from one of the inumerable viruses that kids get.
And just last week, I had made fresh chicken broth...it was waiting for me in the freezer. To make the broth, I used a fresh chicken and a large pot; I added two carrots, a bay leaf, 2 celery stalks, a cut up red onion, a cup of parsley...a clove or two of garlic...and then added fresh water to cover all of it. I added salt and pepper, knowing these two would have to be adjusted. Oh, and parsley and chervil, too.
The broth is the understory of making good chicken soup. Chicken used to have a lot more fat on them, in earlier years. And they used to have much more flavor...it would not be a bad idea, if the chickens are small, to place two in the pot, if you prefer a deep chicken flavor. Or, for a darker broth, sometimes I brown the chicken in a little olive oil and a dab of butter first.
I skimmed the broth, taking the froth off the top, as it came to a slight simmering boil, turned the heat down, covered it...and let it cook away on the stove. The scent that permeated this house was unbelievable...taking me right back to my youth, as my mother's soup simmered on the stove.
There is a certain difference in smell when the chicken has rendered enough goodness to the broth, and still retains enough taste and moisture for a great chicken salad. It is experience on my part that lets me know; however, checking the chicken after an hour or two, depending on size, for doneness is something I do, too. Fluids will run clear and the meat will be tender...just as if it was roasted chicken.
Once I have removed the chicken and the vegetables, I cool the broth to room temperature, and then place it in the fridge for further cooling, after which I placed this last batch in the freezer. And depending on how much fat collects on the top of the broth, I remove some of that, too. Some fat adds body to the broth, though, so judgement is called for.
But the scent of Chicken Soup was just a memory yesterday. I felt the need to bring it back, wanting to enjoy the steamy comfort, with toast on the side, for dinner.
Taking the frozen block of broth out of the freezer, I placed it once again in a large pot. I don't know about you, but my soup always turns into gigantic proportions...no matter how much or how little broth I make. Hence the large pot.
And then I prepped all those wonderful vegetables I wanted to add to the broth. Tomatoes were ripe in the garden, beans, carrots, celery and green onion were all prepared and chopped roughly, into small bits. Most of the time, I prefer chunky bits of vegetables. The tomatoes were not added until the very end though; I still wanted them to keep their shape and fresh taste.
My secret to great Chicken soup is lots of dried chervil and fresh parsley. And I taste the broth constantly...what went into the pot as a frozen block of broth will change in taste once the vegetables are added. I also never boil the broth. A simmering broth will cook the vegetables just enough.
And then I added pasta, to my soup. Sometimes I use barley or rice or even a potato or two. But today, I needed the soft mouth feel of pasta. Pasta will take on a lot of the flavor and saltiness of the broth, so adjustments will be necessary. Sometimes, too, instead of a thin broth, I want something a little thicker, so I might add a small amount of a flour slurry (water and flour, mixed until the lumps of flour are incorporated).
Making Chicken Soup sometimes takes a whole day, fueling the taste buds with its ongoing scent that drifts through the house. One bowl of this soup is enough for me, especially after tasting it all day long!
Chicken soup brings back memories of my young children, who requested it when they felt under the weather, knowing each spoonful of soup brought a mother's love and comfort...
Inclement weather and Chicken Soup can't be beat.