I whipped up a batch of chicken broth the other day and last night made a simple soup of onion, chicken, and our last tomato from the garden. Yes, we were low on vegetables, but with a broth as rich and hearty as this one, you want to keep it simple. Sliced mushrooms, onions, and minced chicken would be my ideal choice of soup additives.
Chicken BrothAs you can see, soup is not complicated. The most basic form of broth requires only two things: water and something that goes in the water (onion, bouquet of herbs, piece of meat, even a bone). Nutrients and flavors are leached from the object being boiled, transmuting the water into broth, or stock. This transformed liquid makes up the foundation of all soups.
2 whole chicken remains (bones, skin, carcass, leftover meat--anything but gizzards as they'll dissolve and give the stock a funny taste) OR a large family pack of chicken wings/legs
1 large onion, quartered
2 carrots, chopped roughly
3 stalks celery, chopped roughly
1 large tomato, chopped
1 whole bulb garlic, bisected horizontally
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced (note: this is the secret ingredient)
1 bunch parsley
Fresh thyme, 5-6 branches
Fresh rosemary, 2-3 small branches
12-24 black peppercorns or mixed peppercorns
4 bay leaves
Add all ingredients to large stock pot and cover with cool water, ensuring an inch or two of water above your stock ordinance. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer so the surface is broken by only the lightest movement; you do want bubbles but just enough so you minimize evaporation. Every half an hour skim the foam and scum off the top. Add more hot water as needed so everything remains covered.
Cook for a minimal of 3 hours, or all day. You'll be where you need to be when you can snap a bone with your fingers.
Strain through a colander with cheesecloth and discard all solids--all of their flavors and nutrients have transferred to the broth, rendering the meat and veggies soft and tasteless. Return broth to a washed and sanitized stockpot and bring back to a boil. Once boil is reached turn off heat, remove pot from burner, and let cool until it's warm and you can refrigerate.
You can also freeze several 12 or 20 oz water bottles and this will cool the broth a lot faster.
The following day your broth will likely have gelatinized (note: if it's still pure liquid that's okay. You can simmer it until you've reduced the volume by an inch or two, or, for richer broth, add more meat and repeat the cooking process). Remove white layer from top and reheat for soups, gravy bases, stews, or as a replacement liquid for recipes that call for water.
Holds only two days in the fridge but can be frozen and lasts for months.
The discovery of soups stands as a major hallmark in the evolution of cooked food, going all the way back to prehistory. First came roasted meats and vegetables, pierced on a stick and turned over a fire. Then came fire pits and heated stones which could be placed in tough animal stomachs to cook foods and hold in the moisture. But it was the discovery of pottery that led to a fireproof cooking vessel which enabled the boiling of water, which of course is the key component and means of genesis for soups.
When you make a round of chicken soup, it's fun to know you're partaking in one of the oldest forms of cooking.
Finally, I hope you had a chance to try last week's lemonade recipe. If you can't find fresh basil in your area, hold onto it and give a try in the late spring. I can say with a straight face that it's the best lemonade I've ever had.
Enjoy the soup!