To continue with my series of posts on quick and easy AND… inexpensive meals and budget cooking (check my beet salad recipe here), I want to talk about chicken soup. I’m from Venezuela. We eat chicken soup like 3 times a week. I’m not joking. And when sick, add 4 more days of chicken soup to our diet. We don’t use cream, actually, cream is something I don’t even remember in our fridge as a kid. Our soups tend to be light and thickened with the starch from the root vegetables we use. Yucca, sweet potato, yam, russet potatoes, carrots… that’s a classic combo in any Venezuelan chicken soup. All those starches help create a very delicious thick and silky base. Add the chicken collagen and the chicken fat and then you have a hell of a meal. Let’s not forget about the chicken itself.
More on flavor and chicken soup.
Chicken pairs really well with sweet tones. Corn and sweet potato work incredibly well. Also the carrots and the tomato paste. But too much sweetness can be overwhelming so season accordingly with salt and if needed, a splash of the vinegar of your choice to cut that sweetness Don’t use balsamic vinegar, that’s just gonna make your soup even sweeter.
The best chicken stock and a trick I learned.
Nothing like making and using your own chicken stock (or any stock). Buying it at the store it’s ok but if you haven’t made your own and you try it, you will very likely agree with me. Now If you’re lucky to have a roasted chicken laying around in your fridge, then your chicken soup could take on a whole new dimension in the realm of awesomeness. Making stock with roasted chicken bones is bomb. But if you don’t have them, which is usually the case. Do not be troubled. You don’t have to roast a chicken to make chicken soup.
Here’s an awesome work around.
Most of the flavour in a roasted chicken lies in the golden skin. I deep fry the skin of my chicken until golden brown. I also deep fry the wings and the carcass after I’ve broken down my chicken into thighs, legs and breasts. This is a shortcut for flavour development but let’s get into it and go over the recipe in detail and yes this batch of… 6 meals cost me about 35 bucks in groceries. That’s just because a chicken in Vancouver costs about 20 dollars (wtf!, yeah, not as budget cooking friendly as you’d expect right?). But the cost per serving is about 5-6 bucks US. Not bad when you’re eating the most delicious soup in the world! Ok, there’s ramen too.
Ingredients (6 servings):
1 whole chicken (cut it up yourself, skin it too)
Skin. From your chicken, obviously.
1 sweet potato. Peeled and cut in rounds.
6 medium/small creamer potatoes whole.
3 corncobs. Cut up in rounds.
2 quarts of chicken stock or 2 bouillon cubes.
1 large onion. Diced.
1 large carrot. Cut up in rounds.
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste.
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic (or the whole Tbsp really)
2-4 Bay leaves.
1 tsp coriander seeds.
1 tsp dry thyme.
1 tsp chili powder.
1 tbs dry rosemary.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Splash of white vine vinegar.
Breakdown your chicken. Don’t buy pre-cut stuff. It costs a lot more and you want to use everything anyways so get that whole chicken. Remove the skins. Deep fry those until crispy and golden brown. Takes about 10 mins but keep an eye on them. You don’t want them to burn or develop any burnt spots. That will turn your soup bitter. Also deep fry the wings and the back. Same rule applied. Reserve all this stuff.
Sauté the onions and the carrots in some olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken skins and the wings and the carcass to the pot. Add the root vegetables and the chicken stock. Add the bay leaves and the spices. Add the tomato paste. Add the garlic too. If you’re using chicken boullion. Add a quart of water per cube. The pot should have enough liquid to cover everything, if not, add some water. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. The sweet potato will probably disintegrate by that time. That’s ok. You can time this better if you want to keep the sweet potato from going too soft. In any case, simmer for about 20 minutes. Or pressure cook for 10. Adjust your seasoning and check for acidity. Remember that white wine vinegar? splash it if necessary.
The poached stuff.
Chicken meat is best when cooked in very gentle heat. This is why we haven’t added it to the pot yet. I like to poach the meat in the chicken stock. I add the legs and thighs first because they require longer and hotter to cook. Add the corn as well. Corn cooks super fast. Simmer for about 10 mins. Add the chicken breasts and cook for about 5 mins. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to rest. I use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is cooked to the proper core temperature or above. No raw chicken guys. Juicy chicken breasts isn’t easy and requires practice or a thermometer, maybe even both. They are done around 60C. For nicer more shreddable meat. Cook to 62C. Anything above that… welcome to dry chicken hell. Ask Ramsey.
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