Tuesday, May 01, 2007

childhood memory chicken soup

There used to be a Campbell's Chunky variety of chicken noodle that included broad noodles, mushrooms, and--according to the label--white wine. I loved that stuff when I was a kid. Apparently I had fairly sophisticated tastes as a child. I particularly liked it because it did not contain carrots. I hated cooked carrots when I was young, and although I'm more amenable toward them now, I still don't think that celery and carrots go together well, which eliminates about 99% of the chicken soup recipes out there.

Campbell's quit making that variety of its soup some time in the late 80's, and ever since I've been queen of my own kitchen I've had a half-assed ambition to reproduce that soup. Thing was, I couldn't really remember what was in it. I know there were some little brightly-colored bits in among the drab mushrooms and pale celery, but I had no idea what they were. Just not carrots.

A few weeks ago I was preparing some other dish that contained chicken, probably the jambalaya soup, which happened to have roasted red peppers in it. How wonderfully chicken and peppers go together! And celery is much more cooperative with that combination, too. Suddenly I realized what those little bright bits in the soup must've been: pimento (which is basically roasted red pepper).

Last night I was in the mood for soup, and I had most of the parts laying around, so I gave it a shot. It was not quite perfect, because I had no wine in the house and had to substitute lemon juice, and the herbs could use some tweaking. But it's a massive step forward.
  • Take 2-3 pounds meaty chicken parts with bone and skin, and some extra fat if available. Boil in about 1/2 cup white wine and 2 cups water, with some chicken bouillon, salt, and black pepper or seasoned pepper.

  • Meanwhile, dice up about half a sweet onion, and two cloves of garlic. Saute in a bit of butter until onions are wilting, but not brown.

  • Chop about 1-1/2 cup celery and a small jar of sliced button mushrooms, drained.

  • Divide, seed and roast a red pepper under the broiler. Peel, if desired, and mince.

  • When chicken is done, remove to cutting board to cool. Add prepped vegetables to pot. Add: chicken flavored bouillon, black pepper, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, parsley, and thyme (I used Penzey's Bouquet di Garni blend). Cover and simmer.

  • Skin and bone chicken. Mince meat and add to pot. Add water to desired concentration of broth/solids. Taste and adjust seasonings.

  • To enrich the broth (if, say, you had only boneless skinless flavorless chicken breasts on hand), you may add an egg yolk or two; beat and mix with a little warm water before adding to the hot broth or you'll have Egg Drop soup. A couple tablespoons of butter helps, too.

  • To thicken, dissolve 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch in warm water and whisk in. It helps give it that made-in-a-can slimyness.

  • At the last, throw in a handful or two of egg noodles and a tad more water if needed. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and cover tightly. Let simmer for 10-20 minutes, or as directed on noodle package.

In my mind this soup needs no sides, but buttered Saltine crackers are the appropriate fare for a childhood memory.


Anonymous said...

In an earlier entry, you said you could cut up a chicken. That caused me to wonder if you had ever done it from scratch-from biddy pecking dirt in the barnyard all the way to the frying pan.

If not, well, neither have I. The most I can say is that I've watched it done. By the time I was an age to do it myself, all our chickens had gone into the cook pot.

Holly said...

I did some plucking once, on an already cleaned and killed bird, when I was very young.

I've never had to run down my own meal, though. I did do a bit of fishing and cleaning of fish when I was small, but I'm not sure I remember how to do that anymore. This is partly because I hate to fish, I think it is the most cataclysmically boring activity known to man, and buying fish fillets is one activity where I am prepared to pay extra and save on labor.

Anonymous said...

For many men, fishing is just an excuse to loaf and drink beer. For myself, I'd need a good book to keep me company if I were stuck at one end of a stick with a string and a hook at the other. That pastime is boring!!!!