Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chicken Potato Soup

Good evening, from a soggy, beautiful Oregon Sunday night!

    I have a strange habit of, when I'm sick, only being able to eat the food if I make it myself, most especially with soups. I am blessed enough to have access to several very fresh ingredients, including the herbs bay laurel, rosemary, sage, parsley, and root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots. These make my well-being somewhat easier to find again after being taken by the microscopic scourges we call stomach flu...

    I've been recently astounded at how many people don't know simple recipes, such as how to make simple soup! Of course, I have little room to speak... I only recently (about March 2012) taught myself how to make a soup. Really, it's a simple concept, but so many people aren't being raised to fend for themselves with what they have, it's rather heartbreaking!

    Also, being part of only the third generation a Polish-American family (although very few other Old World traditions have passed through), I've very much learned and treasured the art, the love, and the need for fresh foods, for homemade delicacies! And, on my name, I will always seek them out! But, alas, that's a different subject and journey altogether! For now, I'll present you a simple recipe, one that's easily altered to your liking, yet very simply beautiful.

Chicken Potato Soup

All traditional soup start the same way, with what is called a mirepoix, a simple flavoring mix of celery, carrot, and onion. A touch of salt in addition always helps with the flavoring part, but ONLY a pinch! As for the potatoes, I prefer small reds or small Yukon Golds, leaving the skins on, as they add flavor and texture to the final product. I ALWAYS grill chicken when adding it to the soup, just becuase it tends to add more flavor, plus, being a foodie, being bathed in the smell of food is nirvana for me! Simple changes can be made to this recipe, and a few tips will be listed below.


4 medium chicken breasts
1 medium to large onion, diced
4 large carrots, sliced into medallions
5 ribs celery, plus half of the heart of the bunch
      (the lightest green of the leaves of the inside)
3-4 pounds of small potatoes, coarsely cut, skin on
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons garlic
2 quarts chicken, turkey, or veggie stock
4 quarts water
1 large sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

-To start, season your chicken breasts slightly heavier than regular. Don't worry about flattening them at all, as you will be cutting them up.
-Grill until just done, depending on your spice mixture, it may be a little difficult in guessing this. I stick a knife into the thickest part of the breast and turn sideways. If there is still a touch of pink liquid, pull them off the grill and let them rest for a wile, and let the juices soak into them again.
-Melt the butter in your stockpot, about 10-12 quarts should be fine, as you'll be adding a lot of liquid to this.
-Heat the butter and saute the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) until the onion is just starting to go clear, at which point, add your potatoes.
-Stir, and let everything begin to brown a tad, at which point you should add your garlic.
-Just after this, pour in your chicken stock.
-Now, cut your chicken into bite sized pieces, and add to your soup base.
-After the chicken chunks have been added, add your water, and bring the whole thing to a low boil.
-At this time, add your sprig of rosemary, and your bayleaf, being sure to not tear your bay leaf or rosemary sprig, you'll be fishing these out later!
TIP:I am using true bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, and not California bay, Umbellularia californica, as most people think of bay. True bay can be left in the soup for hours without the bitter effects of California bay. This is the reason my bay leaves have a film.
-After adding the herbs, bring to a slow rolling boil, boiling until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30-45 minutes.
-This is when you should remove your bay leaf and rosemary sprig, which should just be a wet twig at this point, with the leaves floating in the soup.
-Your soup will be thin at this point, so bring the temperature up to a full rolling boil, and stir 2 tablespoons of corn starch with half a cup of cold water, then dumping this in, making sure to stir the cornstarch into the soil. Let boil for about 7 minutes, which will activate the cornstarch in the soup, and should begin thickening it.
-Drop the temperature to a simmer, and serve hot, and viola! Soup is served!
Simple Changes for a different recipe
-Using a homemade turkey stock, like I did, added a lot of collagen and gelatin, additional thickening agents, to the final recipe, while also adding a lot of extra flavor. A recipe will follow come November's end.
-If you like more garlic, feel free to add it!
-After adding the potatoes (if you are confident in your non-food-burning skills), you can add a light flavored oil, such as grape, canola, or sunflower, and fry the potatoes and mirepoix just a bit, which adds a surprising complexity to the final dish.
-Crostini was definitely needed... just sayin...
-If the soup is a little thin for your tastes, feel free to add 1/4 cup of barley, 1 to 1-1/2 cups small pastas, or 2 cups of large, clunky pastas to your soup, also. As much as I've heard to stick to egg noodles, I don't like the texture, and find that semolina based pastas are absolutely fine.
-Adding cream at the very end would make a very nice addition, although it's not recommended for those that are sick, as dairy has a tendency to increase congestion in some people.
-Adding pepper flake and cayenne (harissa, maybe?) will CERTAINLY help with the opening of the sinus passages! Also, capsaicin is a great way to increase the appetite, stimulate the metabolism, and is known for some pretty wide-ranged health benefits! Does it make the burn worth it for you?!
-Adding other garden fresh veggies, such as green beans, can be added in with the chicken and bacon, as they wont' need as much cooking time. Greens, on the other hand, such as kale, chicory, or spinach, must be added at the very end, and they will shrink far more than expected, but don't be adding them hastily! Work in cup sized batches of greens, stirring the soup and letting them fully wilt before deciding to add more or not.
-For a heartier soup, start with 1 pound of bacon, sliced into small chunks, and fry them in the pot, making what is called a lardon (fancy french word meaning cooked in it's own fat). Skim out the bacon and hold in a bowl, this will be added with the chicken chunks. There will be some extra fat on top, so after the soup come out of the boil, then it cool at a very low temperature, and skim the fat off the top into a bowl, or, better yet, a gravy separator, which will allow the fat to rise to the top and hardon, so you can pour the liquid back into the soup. Bring back to a boil, and then continue on with the cornstarch as directed.

And with that, I wish you a good night, a good morrow, and a get well soon, if you happen to be as sick as I felt.

Thank you, and enjoy,