C H I C K E N S O U P
My Chicken Soup starts with Homemade Chicken Stock; it’s the perfect thing to take to your best friend when she has a cold; pure nurturing in a bowl. After removing all the fat that has risen to the top of the delicious chicken stock, reheat it and taste for strength . . . remember it has no salt in it yet, no herbs, so it will taste plain (we’re about to fix that!). If it’s not strong enough, boil it down a bit to get it the way you like it. If it’s too strong, you can add a little water. I cook most of the ingredients separately to keep them from overcooking, and to give the vegetables some TLC of their own.
Now You Need:
- 4 or 5 containers of mushrooms (about 2 1/2 lbs), sliced a little thick; if you are lucky and find tiny button mushrooms, they can stay whole . . . I use all kinds to give the soup interest, baby portobellos, shitake, and also regular white ones; dried ones too if you like; reconstitute them by soaking them in a little warm broth for a half hour before slicing and adding them to soup. They have a nice texture.
- 3 stalks celery, chopped into small pieces
- 1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves
- 3 or 4 large brown onions, peeled and chopped into about 1″ pieces
- 3 lg. cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1/2 small can tomato puree (adds wonderful flavor and great color)
- the fresh-cooked chicken you set aside when you were making the stock, in bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley
- Tofu “shiritaki” noodles (optional)
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese
Heat up your pot of stock and check for strength; add thyme; partially cover the pot and allow to simmer. Don’t wash the mushrooms, just wipe off any dirt with a paper towel (you really don’t want them to get wet). Slice, discard stems, and put them all into a heavy dry skillet (I use a big black iron pan) over high heat. They will begin to exude their juices, which is what you want them to do. When there’s a puddle of mushroom juices, add the chopped celery. Stir often, and let juices cook down until they’re gone; remove the mushrooms and celery to a bowl and set aside. In same skillet, put about 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Over high heat, add chopped onions; cook and stir until brown and caramelized, about 20 min. When they’re done, stir in the garlic, let everything cook about a minute more, then add it all to the stock. Also add the reserved mushrooms and celery. Using a whisk (because it has a tendency to want to clump) stir in the tomato puree. Bring it all to a simmer. Add the bite-sized chicken and chopped parsley (add the chicken at the last moment and just heat it through — you don’t want it to get overcooked). Taste and then add salt and pepper — I usually start with a half teaspoonful of salt and move up from there — I like lots of pepper. The soup is perfect with grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese over the top. It’s wonderful just like this, plain and simple, the deep dark delicious flavor coming from the long cooked stock, but sometimes I garnish it with slivered fresh spinach leaves — as you can see, this soup is highly adaptable, feel free to add anything from sweet potato chunks or rice to broccoli and carrots, the richer in vitamins, the better.
Cool the soup down before you refrigerate it — then put it in the fridge uncovered until it’s cold, you can cover it then; or you can freeze it. When you go to serve it, just transfer however much you need to a saucepan with a measuring cup and heat it up. That way you won’t have to reheat the entire thing every time, overcooking the chicken in the process. And that’s all! Enjoy!