Mother Connie was turning cartwheels on the kitchen table when Maxine sent her recipe for Chicken Soup. You will most assuredly want to make this in YOUR kitchen, too, because it will absolutely become one of your “go-to” family favorites. Here is the 411 with kudos and bear hugs to Maxine:
“A week or so ago, I told you that we were going to make chicken soup together this week.
There are two ways to go about this: either simmer chicken pieces in water, using the meat for a casserole and the liquid for soup, or simmer backs, necks and wing tips from other cooking you’ve done. Since I usually don’t cook backs and necks, I’ve always got a bag of them in my freezer. We’re going to use them today for an almost-free dinner.
Although you can drop them in water to begin cooking while they are still frozen, I find that I get much nicer, more appetizing broth by thawing them first. Place the pieces in a large Dutch oven or spaghetti pot and bake them in the oven at around 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (the time and temperature aren’t critical). This will “heal” the bones and produce a clearer, more flavorful broth. Pour off the fat that accumulates in the bottom of the pan.
Cover the pieces with water and add garlic, onion, celery and a carrot. Parsley and a bay leaf, if you’ve got them, plus a couple of chicken bouillon cubes or a spoonful of chicken soup base from a jar. Since you will be discarding the veggies, feel free to use the outer rings of an onion, celery tops with the leaves attached, and an unpeeled carrot, ends removed and sliced into a couple of pieces. I usually add a heaping teaspoon or so of chopped garlic out of a jar, but one or two whole, peeled garlic cloves will do it, too.
Bring almost to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, in order to keep a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour—longer won’t hurt. Remove the chicken pieces and veggies and discard the veggies.
Skim the fat from the broth—a gravy separator (one of those clear plastic cups with a long spout starting at the bottom of the cup) works great for this. If you aren’t making the soup until tomorrow, you can also refrigerate the broth and scrape the hardened fat off the top when it is cold.
Now, this is the other half of the secret to nice, clear broth. As you transfer the broth from one container to another, either with the gravy separator or just by pouring, do it slowly enough so that the “crud” stays in the bottom of the pan or separator. When you get down to almost no broth but lots of crud, dump out the remainder.
Crud, you ask? Well, it’s bits of skin, cooked blood, tiny pieces of bone, dabs of fat, etc. It won’t hurt you, and won’t change the flavor, but your soup will be a lot prettier if you get rid of it. (Also, your kids won’t ask, “Mama, what’s that stuff in the bottom of the bowl?—and, best of all, you won’t have to tell them).
Now, pick the meat from the bones. I usually use the backs, necks and wing tips from 3-4 chickens, and I end up with about a cup (plus or minus) of chicken bits. Discard the skin, bones, gristle—you just want the meat.
You can make the soup for tonight’s dinner, or refrigerate the stock for another day. On serving day, simply reheat the stock and add ingredients of your choice.
For chicken-rice soup, I add a little chopped onion, chopped celery, and leftover cooked rice. I haven’t had good luck cooking raw rice in the broth, although I know that plenty of people do it and are successful. (I end up with rice mush). I usually just stir in the cooked rice 5 minutes or so before serving. Taste the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper and any other spices or herbs that you like with chicken. I usually add summer savory and parsley flakes to mine.
Chicken noodle soup is basically the same recipe, except that you add uncooked noodles and cook them in the broth. You might like to add a chopped carrot, too.
Now here is my favorite—and it is really cheap—chicken vegetable, aka garbage soup. (I probably shouldn’t have told you that—definitely do not tell your husband or kids). I add dibs and dabs of whatever leftover vegetables, cooked beans and rice or pasta that I find in the fridge…as well as carrot, celery and a chopped potato (unless leftover cooked carrots and/or potatoes are already in it). Add a can of diced tomatoes and simmer until raw veggies are done. This will taste a little different every time you make it, but it will always be good. (And you’ll have a very clean fridge).
Serve your soup with saltines (store brand, of course!) and a salad—preferably something more substantial than lettuce. You’ll probably get about a gallon of soup, so you’ll have plenty for dinner, seconds and another meal. You can freeze the leftover soup in a plastic container (canning jars have a habit of cracking in the freezer).
This is basically the same way that you’ll make turkey soup the day after Thanksgiving. You can also cook beef bones and the ever-popular ham bone for soup this way, too.”
Wow, kids. We just got a COOKING LESSON! Must be our lucky day! And did you notice how ECONOMICAL this meal is? For those who utilize food commodities, food pantries, SNAP or WIC to fund their food budgets, this is a lifesaver. If you are a user of Angel Food Ministries, you, too, will have chicken to work with and if you were like some of our bargain shopping members who picked up real rock bottom prices on chicken recently this is really going to help you a lot.
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