Monday, December 06, 2004

Chicken Soup for the Blogger Mind

Last weekend when I posted “Kicked Up Meatloaf-Emeril Style” I also wrote a confession about the failure of a recipe I had tried to cook. Well folks, this weekend I have another confession, except this one is about a surprise--sort of round-about success.

I’m usually not a big soup and chili guy when the weather is warm, so when the temperature took a dip last week I decided it was time to cook a whole chicken down for stock and to make some chicken soup with the results.

Canned store bought stock is a staple in my pantry, but I still like to make my own homemade seasoned stock a few times a year to keep in the freezer for use in “special” recipes. So here goes, you’ll need the following ingredients for the stock:

1 four to five pound chicken
6 to 8 quarts of water
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp thyme
3 or 4 stems of parsley

Remove and discard the fat from the tail end of the chicken and rinse the bird thoroughly.

Redneck Tip: Also remove the package containing the neck, gizzard, heart, liver, etc. from inside the bird. I once had a friend that cooked her Christmas turkey with all that stuff still in the plastic bag inside the bird…but that’s another story…

Put the bird and its inside parts into a 12 quart boiler and add the water to cover. Set it on the stove top over medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.

Now crack your peppercorns (I use a mortar and pestle) and place the pieces on a 6” x 10” section of cheesecloth along with the bay leaves, the thyme, and the parsley stems. Fold the cheesecloth up to form an enclosed package and tie it closed with butcher’s twine. Add it to the pot.

Redneck Tip: You’ve just made what the French call a seasoning sachet. Impressed?

Bring the whole thing to a low simmer. Now you are going to have to spend a few minutes (15 or 20 or so) with your cooking bird. As it comes up to temperature, you will start to see a foam or “scum” rising to the top. Don’t worry; this is just the dissolved fat from under the chicken’s skin and some blood that is cooking out of the bird. Skim this off as it rises because it will make your stock look cloudy if it is allowed to cook with your stock.

Once you have “skimmed your scum,” put the cover on the pot, step away from the stove and let everything simmer for five hours, checking back every half hour or so to make sure that it is simmering, not boiling.

Redneck Tip: I try to start cooking stock very early in the morning. This batch started at 5:45 AM...yawn….

Once the stock has reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2 (your choice), turn off the heat, cock the lid, and let it all cool down for a few hours.

Now here is where things went awry. I usually allow my stock to cool all day. If I’m in a hurry, it will spend a few hours in the refrigerator to expedite cooling before I finish processing it. Bad news…We have a side-by side fridge here at the condo and, this being the first batch of stock I’ve made here, I didn’t realize that the stock pot would not fit inside the fridge.

Not to worry, I sat my stockpot out on the sun porch to cool while we went out for a few hours to do some shopping and to look for a Christmas tree. When we returned three hours later, I realized that I had left the lid firmly on the pot and as a result it was still so hot you couldn’t handle it with your bare hands. This is a problem because the idea is to allow the remaining grease to rise to the top and congeal so that you can spoon it off. You don’t want greasy stock.

After another two hours of cooling, the grease still hadn’t all floated and set on top. How was I going to make soup for dinner (it was now 7:45 PM)? Can you say store bought canned stock?

For the soup I used:

The meat from one chicken breast, one leg, and one wing.
2 cans low salt chicken stock
1 can beef stock
2 medium carrots, sliced
¼ medium onion, diced fine
1 rib celery, sliced
1/2 head of escarole lettuce, rinsed and chopped
1/3 pound pastini pasta
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 egg
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan reggiano cheese
Juice from1/2 lemon

Combine the chicken meat and stock in a 4 quart boiler over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery, pastini, escarole, and pepper. Simmer for ten minutes.

Redneck Tip: I used one can of beef stock because I ran out of chicken stock. Remember, in this exercise I started out cooking HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK??!!

While the soup is simmering, in a small mixing bowl, lightly whisk the egg, then whisk in the parmesan cheese and lemon juice.

When the pastini is done, turn off the heat. “Temper” the egg/cheese mixture by slowly spooning some of the hot soup into it a little at a time so as to not “scramble” the egg.

Stir the tempered egg mixture into the soup, let things cool slightly, ladle into a bowl, and enjoy.
Using the canned stock, the soup took less than 45 minutes and saved dinner last evening.


Now back to the chicken stock…once it has FINALLY cooled down (I waited overnight,) spoon the grease off of the top and discard. Fish around in the pot with a slotted spoon and remove as much of the chicken meat and bones as you can and reserve on a plate. Separate the meat from the bones and reserve the meat for soup or gumbo.

Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheesecloth into a large mixing bowl. You now have chicken stock.

Pick through the material caught in the strainer for any pieces of chicken that you might have missed earlier and discard the bones and vegetables. The stock can be strained once more if you like, then portioned up and frozen in sealed containers for later use.

Redneck Tip: You can freeze your stock in plastic ice trays to make small cubes which are easy to store and break out when you need just a little broth for seasoning.

Enjoy Ya’ll,

The Redneck Gourmet

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