Tide Mill Whole Chicken Soup

In my previous post, I mentioned my nasty-all-consming-really-gross head cold.  Honestly, it was just a cold, but I’m kind of whiny and the thing that I love most when I’m sick is soup, so I made some.  Chicken soup to be precise, with one small whole chicken from Tide Mill Organic Farm!  This was, by far, the best chicken soup I’ve ever eaten. [Editor’s Note: Agreed] And while, yes, it made my entire apartment smell divine, it also just hit the spot and made me feel better when I felt awful.

On my afternoon of staying home from work sick, I remembered a 2.5lb chicken in my freezer and the need to get it out of there (a very good choice on my part as the 2.5lb chicken was replaced by a 15.5lb turkey after Thanksgiving).  I pulled the chicken out and rifled around in the fridge, emerging victorious with parsnips, leeks, celery and carrots.  Such fortuitous finds (I hadn’t been to the grocery store in a bit; that I had any veggies in the fridge that were still good was a surprise!).

I threw my whole (frozen) chicken, 2 of the leeks cut into 4 inch lengths and rinsed, half stalks of celery, 3 crushed and peeled garlic cloves, split parsnips and lengths of carrot all into my trusty 6 qt Le Creuset Stock pot (I love this pot, BTW), covered the whole thing with water, and walked away.  In about half an hour, my apartment started to smell divine, even through my stuffed-up nose; I couldn’t wait for the soup to finish.  So here it is, a basic and delicious chicken soup.  And it will make you feel better if you aren’t feeling well.  I swear.

Kathy’s Homemade Whole Chicken Soup
Note: I didn’t add any starch to this soup with it’s initial making, but the second night I added rice and it was wonderful, so maybe try that if you want it to be more substantial and less brothy!  Alternatively, you can use premade broth and poach a couple of boneless skinless chicken breasts in it, then shred them to get the soup without the homemade stock.

For Soup Broth
1 small whole chicken (2-3lbs)
3 whole leeks rinsed and green ends trimmed, cut into 3 inch lengths
2 parsnips, ends cut off and cut into 3 inch lengths
3 cloves whole garlic smashed with a knife
2 whole carrots, ends trimmed and cut into 3 inch lengths
2-3 stalks celery, rinsed and cut into 3 inch lengths
water to cover (4 cups)

Add the chicken (sans gizzards) and all of your vegetables to a stock pot and cover in water.  Turn your burner on low-med and let the whole thing simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hours.  Everything will smell amazing.  Remove the chicken from the broth to a cutting board to sit for a minute and cool.  Strain the broth from your pot into a bowl reserving both the liquid and the strained out solids, I love a metal mesh strainer for this, it can handle the heat and is super cheap!  Return your solids to the pot you initially had them in, leaving the broth in a clean pot.  Skin your chicken and remove whatever meat you want from the bird.  Add the skin and chicken carcass to the pot you put the strained out vegetable solids in, cover this with more water and let it come to another simmer.  You can reserve this broth for another soup later, or freeze it; it’s pretty great for that.

For the Soup
Meat from 1 small chicken, shredded or 2 chicken breasts (3 thighs) poached in broth and shredded
4 cups of broth
1/2 red pepper cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 green pepper cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2-3 carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 leek, rinsed/cleaned and cut into 1/2 rounds
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/2 cup rice or egg noodles (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, sauté the leeks, onions and garlic over medium heat until fragrant and soft (3-4 minutes).  Add the celery and carrots and sauté until soft (another 3-4 minutes).  Add the peppers and stir until soft (1-2 minutes).  Add the broth and chicken and let the whole thing come up to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper to taste and lower the heat to low and continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes.  If you are adding the rice/noodles, do that now and let them cook through.  Serve this soup with a pat of butter on top and a big spoon.  It’s comforting and delicious for the cold and flu season; bring it to someone that’s sick.  They’ll appreciate it.  I swear.

Eli’s Lentil Soup

Last week I went on vacation in Maine.  It was wonderful, we were in Greenville (the head of Moosehead Lake) and spent the better portion of the time reading and cooking (well I was reading and cooking, Boyfriend was video gaming and coding).  But the best part of the vacation? We were with our best friends from college and their two year old son (our godson).  Their Son, named Eli, loves lentils so I brought some and one night for a quick meal we made this soup.

My favorite part of lentil soup is its simplicity.  The satisfaction of creating a soup with onions and cheap dried goods is truly awesome, and all I can think is that I really should have played with lentils sooner than March of this year.  The simplicity of Lentil Soup really leant itself to this particular kitchen adventure because Eli wanted to help which meant more time making sure chubby adorable fingers don’t get burned and less time checking measurements and trying to be exact.  So we made soup, best friend did most of the heavy cutting and Eli added all the spices and did some key stirring for us.

Eli loved the soup so much he ate 3 bowls worth (about 2 cups).  Which I took as a rave review, because let’s face it – there’s no one pickier than a 2 year old with discerning tastes.  The adults in the house followed the soup up with instant gratification yellow cake with chocolate frosting (delicious)  and a viewing of The Fifth Element.

Eli’s Lentil Soup
Note: I think this would translate well to a cold soup with an addition of about 1 more cup of stock or water to thin it a bit.  Also the sausage/bacon in optional and its very easy to substitute in vegetable stock for the chicken for a vegetarian soup.

1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup celery chopped
1/2 red pepper chopped
1 small zucchini (optional) chopped coarsely
2-3 slices thick cut bacon cut into small strips or 2 oz sausage skinned and broken up (optional)
4 cups stock (vegetable of chicken works)
2 cups water (add another for cold soup)
2 cups lentils (I use 1 cup French and 1 cup red but it doesn’t matter)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme, or use 2-3 fresh stalks for an even better flavor.
Salt and Pepper to taste

If you are using it cook your bacon or sausage in your soup pot.  Add the onion, garlic, and celery to the pot and saute them for 2-3 minutes (until the onion is transparent).  Add the pepper and cook it until soft (another minute or so).  Add the stock and let it come to boil, don’t get impatient here the boiling stock makes a difference.  Once the stock has come to a boil add your lentils, stir, and leave it alone for about half an hour.  Go have a dance party with your godson to Lady Gaga, because that’s what the cool kids are doing.  Check the soup if the lentils are starting to soften toss in the zucchini and cook for another 10-15 mins or until the zucchini is cooked through.  Serve the soup!  This is delicious with a big slice of crusty bread to dip in it.  YUM!  Enjoy your soup and then let the dance party continue, maybe with some music from GLEE!