Winter has hit with full force and some warming comfort food hits the spot.
That means it is soup time.
Lately soup and some warm crusty bread has been the simple makings of a meal. I’ve cracked open my soup book and browsed the pages looking to see what I could make with what I have on hand. The other day it was curried parsnip soup.
Recipes for soup are pretty forgiving. You can substitute for many ingredients and use what you have on hand. But the one thing you truly need to have for each soup is a good stock.
A stock can be made with what most people just throw away. Chicken stock can be made with a carcass or just the bones from pieces of chicken. Ends of carrots, celery and outer layers of onion can flavor that stock.
As I prepare vegetables for other dishes I cut off the less desirable bits and pop them into a plastic bag for stock I keep in the freezer. I’m also a big keeper of bones from meals such as steak, chuck roasts, etc. I often buy chicken thighs with bones in them and keep them too. Whole chickens make excellent stock and you can even cut and save the breasts and other parts of the chicken before making stock and just use the carcass and whatever bits stuffed in it – except the liver, which I think gives it a funky taste – to make stock. It is a bit of extra work, but you save money and stretch a chicken into many different meals.
Once you have made stock, freeze it and you have the beginnings of a quick soup.
1 whole chicken
1 medium onion
1 stalk of celery
Pull out neck and giblets. Rinse chicken inside and out. (Alternatively, strip the carcass and freeze the meat or use it for another recipe.)
Put it in soup pot and cover with water. Cut vegetables into quarters. Stick in pot, bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
Carefully take chicken out or wait until it cools. After chicken cools, strip meat and save for other use.
Remove vegetables and return chicken carcass to pot. Add water if needed. Bring back to a boil, cover and turn down heat to avoid boil over. Let it cook for at least another hour, two would be better, three best. Keep an eye on it and add water as needed. Some small bones will all but disintegrate. Let it cool and strain into containers to freeze or use for recipe.
When refrigerated, the stock will be gelatinous. This means it is good!
There is not salt in this recipe, so it will be needed when you use the stock in a recipe.
Vegetable stock is a similar process. But vegetables are a bit more fragile, so less time simmering is needed. Add roughly chopped onions, celery, carrots, perhaps other root vegetables, crushed garlic cloves, salt and spices (parsley, bay leaf and other bland spices would be good) and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and use or freeze.
TIP: The more surface area, the quicker the flavor of the vegetables will be released. So cut into smaller pieces and the simmering time will go down.
For vegetable stock just add whatever you might have on hand or something that would blend well with the final destination for the stock. A tomato, basil, etc. if Italian. Let your imagination go wild. Add the skins from 2 or 3 yellow onions to give your stock a nice golden color. (They may need more time simmering. Remove the rest of veggies and return onion skins to pot and simmer longer.)
Once you’ve got some stock making some nice soup is easy peezy. Look for some soup recipes coming soon.