Chicken soup: Feeding the heart and soul

Home-made Chicken Stock

*note this post was written on 1/04/13 but because of the craziness of being home after a long hospital visit I didn’t get around to finishing it and publishing it until today.

We had a very eventful new year’s. My loving husband, known here as Thogg, was rushed to the emergency room. We thought it was appendicitus, the doctors worried about gallstones and it turned out to be an obstruction in his small intestine. Long story short, he is finally home after spending the first 4 days of the year in the hospital. I can finally do some laundry, take a real shower, and give the fuzzy family members some real TLC. Our cats didn’t really notice our absence, other than that they didn’t get wet food for a few days but our loving English Labrador is, understandably, a little put out. He has spent the last several hours snuggled at my feet, whether I am standing in the kitchen cooking or sitting here typing.

My first order of business after cleaning the house a bit, doing dishes, and unloading all the things I’d brought to the hospital to keep Thogg occupied was to find something he could eat. For today, he is on a liquids only diet. Tomorrow and the rest of the weekend will be soft foods. Monday he can have meat again. I decided to kill several birds with one stone and make some chicken broth. Tonight he will have clear broth, tomorrow I will use some of it to make rice congee and on monday he can have Pho and maybe congee with chicken meat.

I like to use either whole chickens or large bone-in pieces. This saves money and I get to make great chicken stock from it. In this recipe I used leg quarters and removed the thigh meat for use in later recipes. You can keep the meat on if you prefer. While cooking it I removed the remaining cooked meat after 30-40 minutes of light simmering. I then took off the meat from the drum-sticks and other bones and put them aside for a casserole. This takes a little extra time but I find it is worth it. You can choose to leave the meat on for the entire cooking process but it will need to be discarded if you do so since all the flavor will have been removed and it will be cooked to a soft grainy texture that is rather unappetizing.

For the Broth:

  • 4 to 5 chicken leg quarters
  • 1 large onion
  • 15 black peppercorns – whole
  • 2 ribs of celery
  • small bundle of fresh parsley (maybe 20 stalks)
  • 2-3 pieces of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried leaves
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Water
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 cloves of garlic – skin removed

Directions:

  1. Remove skin from the leg quarters. Using a knife, separate the thigh portion from the drumstick. You can find the joint by bending it and noting where the bending point is. Gently cut the meat in a circular motion around the joint and then wiggle until the joint loosens. You can usually then either pop it apart by hand or wedge the knife between the bones and cut the connective tissue and some of the cartilage apart.
  2. To remove the thigh meat for another recipe check to see if the hip portion is still connected along with a small portion of back. Align the thigh portion so the meaty part is face up. Make two cuts along the seam where the thigh meat joins the back bone. This will help to release the meat and make it easier to find the joint where the leg meets the hip socket. Wiggle the bone and loosen the joint then using a knife pry it out. Don’t throw the back piece away, it will have lots of flavor to bring to your stock. Decide if you want to use the thigh portions bone on or boneless for your future recipes. Using the bone in the stock will give it more flavor but it is up to you.
  3. Trim off any visible fat and then add the back pieces, drumsticks and thigh bones (if using) into a large soup pot. Add 10 to 12 cups of water. Cut the onions into quarters. You can remove the skin for a light colored broth or leave them on for a darker broth. Tie the parsley and thyme using kitchen twine or some cheese cloth if you have used dried thyme. Cut your celery into 3-4 pieces each. Add the onion, parsley, thyme, and celery to the soup pot. Add your peppercorns and salt.
  4. Bring it to a low boil on the stove. As soon as it boils reduce it to a simmer. Immediately skim off any white or brown foam that forms on the surface. The removal of the foam will help keep your broth clear. After a few more minutes the foam should stop forming. Cover it and leave it on a simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken pieces are cooked through.
  5. Remove the chicken and set aside for a few minutes to cool. Remove the meat, and any connective tissue. Place the bones, cartilage and connective tissue back in the pot. The cooked meat can be used later for soups or casseroles. Rinse the carrot and chop it into 3-4 pieces. Add the carrot and whole garlic to the soup pot. Bring everything back to a simmer and cook for another 2-3 hours.
  6. At this point you can use decide to strain the pieces out and use the broth immediately or to let everything sit in the fridge overnight. Letting it sit will intensify the flavor even more. To strain your soup, remove all large pieces and bones with tongs and then put some cheese cloth over a fine strainer. Strain the broth through the strainer and into a large container. Give it a taste and season with more salt if you like.

I now have chicken broth! Usually I skim all the fat off but since my loving Thogg has not hardly and calories for the past 4 days and has lost 7 pounds I’m leaving the fat in.  It smells wonderful and I’m happily sipping a warm glass of it myself. If you like, you can try making broth with other substitutions like:

  • left over bones from roast chicken instead of the raw chicken and bones – it will give it a darker color and different flavor
  • try adding a piece of ginger to the stock – this is great for people with indigestion and nausea
  • try making some pho broth by adding things like green onion stalks, star anise and nouc mam to the broth
  • try using pork bones or roasted beef bones and experiment with some of the herbs or spices

The possibilities are almost endless. Remember cooking is a fun and creative process. If you’ve never made your own stock you’re in for a treat. You can’t get this stuff out of a can or box. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Chicken soup: Feeding the heart and soul

  1. Pingback: Chicken Soup Part Two: Breaking out the Asian Mojo « cookingforthogg

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