Thursday, February 2, 2012

Be her hero. Make her homemade soup (Broth & Chicken Soup Recipe)

Quick jump to Chicken Soup recipe

I'm still waiting for Winter in DC. It's the beginning of February and that pile of appropriated funds for DC salt trucks is atrophying faster than Peyton Manning's legacy margin over his younger brother.

Unfortunately...this weather is causing EVERYONE to become sick. EVERYONE. My office corridors could be a cut scene from The Walking Dead. Desolate. Empty. Quiet. (Though with minimal zombies).

But...once it finally gets cold...soup will be in season

(If soup can be in season)

Making homemade soup is a great, lazy afternoon/snow day activity (it's also a great way to use all of those remaining, close-to-expiring, vegetables in your refrigerator.  Again (following the theme of this blog), broth (and soup) is extremely easy to make, so don't be afraid to give it a try. Since it's not really an exact science and not a strict recipe to follow, you have room for error.

So don't worry. 

The key to homemade soup is in the broth. End of story. I don't care if you're buying organic, farm-raised, naturally-occurring, hippie-loving, antibiotic-free broth, it's cheating.  Making broth is essentially throwing a bunch of flavorful ingredients and aromatics (fancy word for plants and herbs that cause things to smell good) into a pot of water and boiling that pot until the water's reduced by half (or more).

So don't cheat.

Since my 5-pound, unused carton of Costco mushrooms was quickly approaching its disintegration point, I decided to make mushroom broth a few nights ago. I grabbed the mushrooms and foraged for any remaining refrigerator items, I found the following:

Mushroom Broth
  • Fresh mint
  • Full garlic clove (roughly smashed, shells and peels included)
  • A roughly chopped red onion (shell included)
  • Fresh ginger
  • Bay Leaves
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Two-thirds of a mushroom pile

Beginnings of the broth
110 minutes elapsed
Strained broth

Once strained, I let the broth cool and put it back in the refrigerator for the following day's cooking experiment (Look for a post on my modified Vietnamese/pho/Asian soup dish attempt)


As promised, here' s an easy recipe for making chicken soup and for making a soup broth. Whenever I make it, I'm always making slight modifications and can never usually remember the exact steps. But here's the gist:

Chicken Soup Recipe (~3-4 hours)

  • 2 Garlic bunches
  • 2 Onions
  • Bay Leaves
  • Bag of Carrots
  • Package of Celery
  • Whole, uncooked organic chicken (buy organic, you're trying to make her un-sick)
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Extra things for your soup (potatoes, mushrooms, etc.)
  • Water
  • Large pot
  • Colander (strainer)
  • Other large pot

  1. Make broth and cook chicken (45 minutes)
  2. Break down chicken and add bones (7 minutes)
  3. Continue to make broth (1-2 hours)
  4. Make soup (30 minutes)

The first step is to make the broth - the ingredients that are used in the the broth will be discarded later, so don't worry about neatly chopping everything.

The Broth
  1. Fill a large pot with water
  2. Crush up a full garlic clove and thrown the whole thing (skin and all) into the pot
  3. Do the same for one of the onions
  4. Add a few bay leaves
  5. Wash the carrots and celery, lazily chop them, and thrown them into the pot (leaves and stems as well)
  6. Add the uncooked chicken, salt, and pepper
  7. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a very light boil (about low/medium)
  8. Cook for 45 minutes (you goal here is to cook the chicken thoroughly)
  9. Take out the whole chicken and break it down
  10. Put all of the bones and non-meat back into the pot
  11. Refrigerate the chicken meat
  12. Let the pot simmer (uncovered) for 1-2 hours (your goal is to reduce the water by half)
  13. Get another pot and put a strainer into that pot
  14. Strain your broth mixture (I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH - MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A POT UNDER YOUR STRAINER! I've spent 2 hours making a broth and have forgotten to put another pot underneath the colander to catch the liquid. You're so engrained to use a strainer to discard the liquids, that you can easily screw this up)

The Soup
  1. Take the strained broth and bring to a low boil (turn to high to get it to boil then reduce the heat)
  2. Chop up the remaining celery, onions, chicken and carrots into consumable, soup-ready pieces
  3. Put the vegetables into the pot in order of how long they would take to cook
  4. Potatoes first
  5. Carrots and chicken next
  6. Celery and onions last
  7. Cook until cooked. But not mushy (Look at how much faith I have in you that I gave you such a vague instruction!)
  8. ...Okay...if you're including potatoes, its about 30-40 minutes

And you're done!

Soup complete.

  • If you're broth or soup is too salty, throw in some potatoes (remove after or keep) - they will absorb some of the salt 
  • Refrigerator leftovers, next day soup is great. Don't be scared of the layer of fat that solidifies in your container, just throw that away
  • Cook noodles separately and then add them to the individual servings of soup.  That way, when you have leftovers, the noodles won't absorb the broth.  Store the noodles separately and throw them in after you reheat the broth

And now that you know how to make a broth, you can try making:
  • Vegetable broth
  • Pork Broth (take those leftover pork ribs)
  • Chicken broth
  • Shrimp broth (take the leftover shrimp shells)

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