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I love this simple chicken soup. It’s hearty and delicious.
The flavors that come from this traditional mix of onion, carrot and celery form the flavor base for so many other soups, stews and gravies. The reason why is they are complimentary and together form deep flavor matrices. Add to this flavor mix, a whole chicken on the bone and it is one of the simplest things you can make, with some of the best flavors.
And it only has four main ingredients and a couple minor co-stars that should be readily available from your pantry. The soup from this recipe can also be used as a broth or stock base for other dishes. It is what people try to get out of a bouillon cube or a can of stock, but the flavor from this homemade stock is unique unto itself and in my opinion an unchallenged contender for its simplicity and depth of flavors.
1 Chicken about 1 kilo (2 pounds) Substitute 4 medium size chicken breasts, but the whole chicken is recommended because the flavors from the bone.
1 medium to large carrot
1 medium to large onion
2 stalks of big celery (preferably with leaves)
Use a large stock pot, of at least 6-8 quarts.
Supporting Characters (Important)
1 Tablespoon Oil
1 Tablespoon Peppercorns
1-2 Tablespoon Salt (to taste)
1-2 gallons (4-8 liters) Water
Spring onion, fresh parsley or fresh cilantro
Serves about 4-6 hearty bowls.
The dish comes together rather quickly, but you will need to wait for the chicken to finish cooking before you can enjoy the fullest flavors.
Important note – do NOT add salt until the very end. And if you are trying a low or no-sodium diet, then leave it out and with salt on the table, let each person decide to his or her own taste.
When possible, I always like to brown my vegetables and meats. A traditional mirepoix, or mix of the base vegetables, is more gently fried.
I start by cutting up my onion to about a medium chop. I put a little oil in the pan to start frying it on medium heat.
Then I peel and chop my carrot to about the same size as my onion. I add the carrot to the frying onions. I want to brown them a little bit as well.
Next, I chop up my celery. I do not like to eat big pieces of cooked celery, so I dice the celery up rather small. I save the leaves to add to the liquid later. I do not chop up the leaves because I find them unappealing in my soup, so I leave them whole and before serving I take them out. The celery is the last thing I add before I add the water and the chicken.
As a general guide, I put the chicken into the pot and add enough water to cover the chicken, or at least allow it to have enough leg room to do some laps.
At this point, I add the celery leaves and the peppercorns to the stock.
I turn up the heat to get the water going and then once it reaches a boil, I will turn it down to a slow simmer.
If you make soup regularly or host the occasional big family meal, you might have a fat separator. It is a useful device, you add liquid to the top and like a little watering can, the spout starts at the base. You can see in the pictures, I first skim off the fats that have liquefied from the chicken, and are now oil.
The fats separate and rise to the top of the liquid due to their lower density than the water on the bottom. This is why the little fat separator device is nice to use. Here, I just used a spoon to separate off the fats and pour the remaining soup liquid in the glass back into the stock.
I know the chicken is finished when the connective tissues or joints easily fall apart. I like to let it cook as long as possible, at least 3 to 4 hours. The more time, the better the flavor.
Usually, I do not add any additional liquid or water during the cooking. If the temperature was too high during the cooking process or there was not enough water at the beginning, there might not be enough liquid. It is better to add extra water early, so that all the liquid has a chance to mingle with the vegetables and chicken.
I remove the chicken to cool and turn off the soup. After it has cooled, I carefully remove all the bones. I like to chop up the chicken and then add it back to the big pot.
But one last step before I put the chicken back into the big pot, I try to remove as much of the celery leaf and peppercorns as possible from the liquid. If you do not want to go searching, you can use a little tied-up cheesecloth pouch to hold the peppercorns and celery leaves in a bundle. I think the idea of letting them float about gives them a better chance at the meet and greet with the other ingredients.
The last ingredient I add is salt. I add it in steps. Hours of work can be ruined if you add too much and then have to add a lot of water to compensate. Add a ½ tablespoon and then taste, then start adding ¼ tablespoons or less. And like I suggested before, this soup is easy to make low sodium, just do not add salt and let each person add his or her own to taste.
Other options to add to this soup are some cooked rice or pasta at the end when you are heating it for serving.
Right before serving, I like to chop up some fresh greens, like spring onion, parsley or cilantro to add some extra color and flavor. And my personal preference is to add some hot sauce or chili flakes and eat with saltines or crackers.
A simple, hearty chicken soup. And only four main ingredients.
Literally, almost as easy as boiling water, it just takes a little bit longer.
Hope you enjoy this hearty, deep-flavored soup, too!
Check out this other delicious soup!