A stock in every pot

3rd November, 2008 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Chicken Soup with Pasta

This column has been written by request. A friend of mine politely begged me to write something about soup. According to her, all of her soups are less than stellar and she wanted some ideas and tips for making really good ones.

As I watch the clouds gather themselves up to dump another load of rain against my kitchen window, I decided that soup sounded like a pretty good idea. So I proudly present everything I know about broth-based soups. Cream-based soups are another column, which will probably be sometime between the second and third ice storm.

To make a really good soup, one must start with a really good stock. This requires a little planning. Beef stock can take about eight hours and several pounds of veal bones. Professional kitchens tend to make it in 15 to 20 gallon – or more – batches because it’s time intensive no matter how small the amount.

For the home cook, chicken or vegetable stock is the way to go most of the time. Chicken stock takes about two hours; vegetable stock about 45 minutes. Both freeze well and are excellent leaping off points for many other dishes.

What is the difference between broth and stock? Broth is made up of nothing but chicken and water. Stock consists of chicken, vegetables and seasonings. Stock can stand in for broth much better than broth for stock.

The two most important qualities in a stock are flavor and clarity. Flavor is easy enough to figure out, but why clarity? Clear stocks are what all chefs aim for when they start out. Stock is used as the base and main flavor component for many sauces, having a clear stock means that the finished product will be glossy and attractive. A cloudy stock can not be clarified no matter how much it’s strained.

Stock is pretty basic: chicken, vegetables, water and time. There are countless variations – some like leek, garlic or thyme can be included as well. Many recipes call for an entire chicken; because the meat isn’t good for much; I like to use backs, necks and any leftover roasted chicken carcasses that might be handy.

For an extremely flavorful, gelatinous stock, throw in a few chicken feet. Frozen chicken feet can be purchased at SPD for $0.89 a pound. I encourage you to make use of the feet, they are an often overlooked part of the chicken that are great for this sort of cooking. However, I should warn you that you will be very aware that you’re cooking with feet. Trim off the toenails prior to cooking so the collagen can release easier.

Use an 8 to 10 quart stockpot and start with cold water. Cold water will keep the bones from releasing impurities and clouding your stock. Add neutral aromatic vegetables like carrots, onions and leeks. Parsley stems are a good addition, but not the leaves. The chlorophyll will turn your stock greenish-grey, which is not what is needed in chicken dishes.

Stock can be used in place of water for cooking rice, potatoes and pasta. It can also be used to deglaze pans and reduced for pan sauce.

Chicken Stock
3 1/2 to 4 pounds of chicken backs, necks, wings and feet
2 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 carrots, quartered
2 medium onions, left unpeeled, trimmed, and halved
6 fresh parsley stems (without leaves)
1 bay leaf
8 whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Cold water to cover

Bring all ingredients to a boil in an 8- to 10-quart pot and skim froth. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered, skimming froth occasionally, 3 hours.

Remove chicken, then pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids. If using stock right away, skim off and discard any fat. If not, cook stock completely, then chill, covered, and discard any solidified fat. Stock can be chilled 3 days or frozen 1 month.

Chicken Noodle Soup
There are two rules to soup: it must taste good and everything should be diced small enough that you can get a little bit of it every spoonful. A soup microcosm, if you will. I used bow tie pasta in this soup because I like them, but any small pasta or egg noodle will work

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cups chicken stock, fat removed
2-3 cups cooked diced chicken
1/2 cup diced peeled carrots
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup peas
2 cups bow tie noodles
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

In a warm pan, add the olive oil. Add carrots, onion and garlic. Cover and cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are almost tender. Add peas and bow ties, simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken and continue simmering until noodles are tender, about 5 more minutes. Add parsley, season with salt and pepper.

Serve in warmed bowls with crackers.

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Posted on: November 3, 2008

Filed under: Dinner, Soup

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