Monday, February 11, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is one of the easiest and most satisfying soups to cook at home. It is also great for frugal cooks, because you don't need fancy stuff to make a delicious pot of family delight. Even better if you have a familiar family recipe, handed down from Grandma or Great-Grandma.

I made a big pot this past weekend, using what I had on hand after looking at about ten different recipes on Epicurious, my favorite cooking site. Here's what I got by scanning the recipes:
  • First choice, cook on stovetop or in slow cooker.
  • Second choice, basic chicken soup, Asian-inspired chicken soup, Latin-inspired soup, gumbo-like soup, or broth. This is about seasonings and thickness.
  • Third choice, noodles or rice or pasta or nothing.
  • Fourth choice, beans or nothing.
That's it.

Your chicken can come from rotisserie-chickens, leftovers, frozen breasts or thighs, raw or cooked. It's all in the timing and convenience for you.

Most recipes add lots of vegetables, but I prefer to limit myself to celery and carrots. No beans, pasta, rice or noodles. I add heat: fresh ginger, red pepper flakes, lemongrass (if I've got it), and sometimes jalapeno peppers. I also add 1/4 to 1/2cup of white wine and sometimes 1 cup of chicken broth, mixed with about 5 cups of water.

You can increase the nutritional value by adding a can of chickpeas or a half-cup of white beans; you'll also increase the number of servings. You are automatically lowering the sodium count (compared to Campbell's or Progresso) by making your own and adding only a pinch of salt while cooking. You're also eliminating fat by using either only white meat or mixing it up dark and white while removing all the skin. And for anyone with wheat or dairy or corn allergies, this is exclusive of all those ingredients -- although you can add them.

This time of year, too, with flu and colds everywhere, chicken soup is a great choice for people well and not so well.

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