November 13, 2013

Chicken and a little beef.

Cold weather makes me want to cook soup.
I have never been a real soup cooker.
But, in my new life, I cook soup often.
I have two staples... Chicken Noodle and Beef Stew.  (OK, three.  I love potato soup too, but we aren't talking about that today.)
It seems like I should have made these more over the years.

Want to know a few things that I learned?
[Don't read this if you are a seasoned soup maker... I'm a beginner.]

Chicken Noodle
- If using frozen chicken, just boil a few breasts in water early in the day.  (I like to boil them with an onion for flavor and because I love onions lately.)  Let them cool and shred them with a fork.

-Don't throw away the water you boiled the chicken in.  Skim off any yucky stuff and use that as part of your stock (you can add bullion to flavor it more).

-Buy a big bag of big carrots.  Just do it. And, big onions and a few bunches of celery.

-My soup making SIL taught me to use a whole big onion and almost a whole bunch of celery.  When cutting celery, she just cuts off the bottom of the whole bunch and then keeps cutting little pieces.  So, instead of using individual stalks you are cutting the whole bunch of celery at one time- leaves and all.  (I use half and put half in a ziplock in the fridge.)

-Put a little olive oil or butter in the bottom of your soup pan and add the onions and celery.  Cook them till they're clear and the bottom of the pan gets brown.  I love this step.  That brown stuff gets extra good flavor.

[-I made extra good (super easy) stroganoff by caramelizing onions, mushrooms and peppers and then just adding a jar of Alfredo sauce with sour cream.  I served it over brown rice.  Mmmm.]

-I like to mix boxed chicken stock with cheaper bullion (or homemade).  Just add the juice to the onions/celery and scrape off the stuff on the bottom.  Then, I add the chicken and carrots.  I just leave that cooking until ten minutes before dinner and then I add the noodles.

-Go ahead, make a batch of egg noodles.  Easy.  It takes two minutes, they are simple.  Eggs, milk, salt and flour.  Cut them with a pizza cutter and throw them in once your veggies are all soft.  Homemade noodles are so good.

-We love to eat chicken noodle soup served over mashed potatoes.  Mmmm.  My Idaho in-laws taught me to use evaporated milk for thick, creamy mashed potatoes.

-If you want creamy soup add half and half or cream.  You can add a can of cream of chicken soup.  

-I love the Pioneer Woman's chicken and dumpling soup... It's creamy and has corn meal dumplings in it.  (No need for rolls, noodles or potatoes with that one.)

-You need bread with soup, especially if you don't have noodles or mashed potatoes.  So buy a fancy loaf, make soup the day you make bread or make your favorite rolls.  They aren't hard.  Cornbread is an easy side if yeast scares you.  I want to find a really great biscuit.  Anyone have a favorite recipe?  I just started making 71 Toes Flatbread.  It's really quick and easy.  I use wheat flour, cut it into breadsticks and top it with butter and Parmesan.  Easy and it makes a simple soup fun to eat.  When all else fails, serve soup with crackers.  The kids love it!

Chicken Stock
-Yesterday I roasted a whole chicken (425* for about an hour and a half).  It was crispy and delicious.  (Put an onion inside, and butter, salt and pepper on the skin.) 

-Then, I took the juice and chicken bone carcass and put them in a big soup pot.  I filled the pot with water and boiled the chicken for two hours while I was cleaning up and putting the kids to bed.  My house smelled dreamy.  I turned off the pot and let it sit to cool off and right before bed I poured it into a colander that I set in a bowl to catch all the bones and skin.  Tah Dah!!!  Homemade Chicken Stock!!  It tasted good and looked real.  We just poured ours into a gallon freezer bag and plopped it into the freezer so it's fresh the next time I make soup.

I know?!  Why haven't I done this before?

Butternut Squash
[Want another random tip?  Do you love butternut squash?  I do.  But it is hard to cut.  I read this great idea-- today I just stuck my whole squash in the microwave and cooked it for ten minutes.  It was soft and easy to peel, but not fully cooked.  I peeled it, cut it into bite-sized pieces and cut up a Granny Smith apple.  I just put some butter in a frying pan and cooked the squash and apple for a few minutes.  So good.  Love that little side-dish.  Not sure I'll ever cut a hard squash again.  Love that microwave trick.]

Beef Stew
-Buy good stew meat.  You don't need a lot of meat even for a lot of people.  Freeze the meat in smaller bags.

-Here's the key I was missing.  Cook the onions and celery first.  Then, take them out and set them aside.  Add a little oil to your same pot and cook the stew meat.  

-When the meat is almost done cooking, throw in about 1/4 cup of flour.  It sticks to the meat and everything dries up.  Then add water with beef bullion (I like the wet bullion from Costco), and dump back in your pre-caramelized onion/celery mix. As the soup cooks it will thicken because of the flour.  Mine has never been lumpy.

-I like to add potatoes that I chop small but keep the skins on.  Sometimes I add a can of corn or frozen peas.   I really want to buy a parsnip to add- because that sounds cool.  Do you love barley?  I do.  Beef and barley stew sounds yum.  Throw in a cup of barley or rice and just let it cook.  Beef stew served over egg noodles sounds good, too.  

That's all folks.
It is SO fun for me to cook again.  Especially since there is snow on the ground in this neck of the woods.

Please share any soup tips you have!  
I'm smitten by the soup bug.

And, my husband is smitten by a little beef.  He thinks we should get miniature cows.  They really are so cute-- but really? Cows?!!! 

Life is delicious.


Tristan said...

Man oh man now I want soup! I've been doing chili each week but chicken sounds delicious. Guess I'll be buying a chicken this weekend!

Don't forget to make soup with your turkey carcass after Thanksgiving!

I think I need to stop reading posts about food though, it's not helping me win the war against munching... off to drink some water and remind myself that potatoes will be out of the oven in 30 minutes.....

Birrd said...

I love you for the squash in the microwave trick. You just changed my life again.

Amy said...

If you are using boneless chicken breast the easiest and fastest way to shred it is once it is done cooking take it out of the pot, put it in a kitchen aid or similar mixer with the paddle attachment. turn it on slowly then increase the speed and it will shred the chicken in minute or less.

jenifer said...

Turkey broth... Great idea!

jenifer said...

I know! Changed my life too! I read the idea in a cookbook and I wanted to jump up and down with excitement.

jenifer said...

I'm going to try this next time. It will be perfect right before I use the mixer for rolls. Thanks!

Kristen said...

I keep a gallon bag in my freezer and throw all my onion and carrot roots, Parmesan rinds, chicken wing tips, and whatever else sounds good in there. When it's full, I make broth and I feel thrifty because it's all stuff I would have otherwise trashed. I add some bay leaves and peppercorns and it's better than anything in the store!

jenifer said...

What a great idea! I hate throwing that stuff away. I'm so excited to put a bag in my freezer! Thanks.

Christine Suldinger said...

Thanks for those recipes. Can't wait to get home and make nice soup and stews

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