Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chicken Soup with Rice

Soup was not originally part of my plans for the weekend, but I've ended up cooking rather compulsively. Yesterday, I realized I had a lot of produce I needed to use up, so I whipped up the kohlrabi stew. And this morning, I woke up with some ragingly angry sinuses and the sore throat that sometimes comes along with a clogged up nose, so before I'd even had any breakfast, I was tossing some chicken into a pot so that I'd be able to enjoy a steaming, comforting bowl of soup at lunchtime (a loose recipe and some evangelism follows after the bump).

So, a lot of you know that I give chicken soup a lot of credit -- that I trust it more than anything the AMA or the drug companies have come up with for battling head and chest colds. It think the science is starting to catch up with what many of us already know: not only does chicken soup feel and taste good when you're feeling puny, but it actually helps you get better.

So, if you're not already on the bandwagon, I'm going to take away your last excuse for not making your own soup, because this is the easiest prep of all the soups. All you need is some soup base, some chicken, and a few things that are probably already in your fridge. Now, it's possible to make this much more complicated -- by starting with a whole chicken, making your own broth, and so on -- but that would give you all sorts of excuses to not do this, and what you really need when your head is stuffed up is to spend some time hovering over a steaming pot of soup, followed by a yummy, comforting meal. So, here we go. This makes a pretty big pot that usually lasts a few days in our household of 2-3 people.

Start with some good chicken base. I use this stuff, but there are some good options at the grocery store as well -- I've tried this before and it's quite good. Start with about 8 cups of stock, and get it started warming in a big pot.

Then pull out about two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken -- I used breasts, but there's nothing wrong with ribs and thighs if that's your thing. Cut it up in to chunks or bite-sized pieces and put that in the pot to simmer.

After this, everything is pretty much optional. If I'm cooking for a person who is really sick, I won't had much else to the mix, except maybe a bit of carrots and celery, especially if there's a touchy stomach involved. But if you're making, like I did this morning, a prophylactic soup -- intended to ward off the evil grip of the head cold -- have at it and enjoy playing chef! In fact, a bit of onion and garlic will probably add to the head-clearing effect! Remember that you pretty much can't screw this up, so follow your instincts, add small amounts to start with, and taste a lot as you go along.

Here's how I filled out my soup today... First, I chopped up some celery, carrots, and onions (chunks or bite-sized pieces -- your call!) and tossed them in with some minced garlic. If you've got some leeks, those are good too. Or green onions. Maybe some mushrooms? A lot of the time, this is a good opportunity to clean out the produce drawer in your fridge.

Next, think about seasonings. At a bare minimum (again, unless you're dealing with someone who's really sick), mix in some fresh chopped parsley, thyme and ground black pepper. You could also toss in a bayleaf, some allspice, rosemary, sage -- this is entirely up to you. If you've got a sense of adventure, you could get really funky here. Have some fun!

Once all that is in your pot, let it simmer for a while -- 30 minutes at least, but longer is fine (depending on how firm you want your veggies to be).

Finally, you might want to put in something to make it stick to your ribs. There are a lot of options here: noodles, broken spaghetti, mini macaroni shells or those tiny little stars, pastina, orzo, ABCs, rice -- the possibilities are nearly unlimited. Once you put that in, you may need to add a bit more water, because a lot of pastas and rices will soak up your stock (and if you have leftovers, your pasta will get huge overnight!). You'll just have to see how it goes (today, I added a cup of rice and two cups of water).

Once you've added your pasta/rice, let the soup simmer again for another 15-20 minutes or so, until the pasta is soft, and then, it's ready to serve! Enjoy! And feel better!!! (And let me know how it turns out!)

1 comment:

A Free Man said...

I love me a good homemade soup. We had a bit of cool weather last week and I made a bitchin' batch of corn chowder. This one sounds like a winner.