So there it is. There are reasons, good reasons, mostly, for my dilatory posting history over the last year: work suddenly picked up, a lot, with a half dozen active clients and several big projects to juggle at once; work travel has also been busier than ever, with trips to Copenhagen, Boston, DC, Raleigh. With friends scattered across the globe, and World Cup qualifying upon us once more, personal travel is never-ending: San Francisco for my BFF’s wedding; Delaware River Basin for another BFF’s 50th; Charleston for the 4th of July (and a 40th birthday party); Gold Cup in Philly and Houston, a baby shower in Upstate NY, hiking with friends in Acadia, Gloucester trip to visit Mom, Revs in the Open Cup in Dallas, and most recently, 10 days in Charlotte to visit my BFF and her brand new baby boy – the list goes on. Of course, there’s also that 30 lbs that I lost, and the attendant hours & miles logged in pursuit of a fitter me. Like I said: good reasons.
It’s a good life, and it’s been a great year, but there’s been less time for cooking (and no time for preserving – the last thing I put in a water bath was salsa, a YEAR ago!) and way less time for recipe development, photographing & editing, writing, publishing. I’m happy to have the opportunity to visit with friends (and cook for them, even without the benefit of blog-worthy photography!), but I have missed this little space, even if no one is reading blogs anymore. Sadly, I have to put myself in the “no time to read blogs anymore” category, too. Maybe it’s this 72-year election cycle that’s hogged all of my internet-reading time?
So here I am, back again, talking about a homey & humble chicken soup. It was a rainy, gloomy, blustery Saturday in New York yesterday – with snow in the Catskills! – a perfect day for a long, slow simmer of chicken stock on the stove, the low rumble of wild rice and pearled barley bubbling away, the soothing ritual of chopping vegetables and stripping chicken meat from the bone. Tai had a rare Saturday off, and spent the day bundled up on the couch, binge-watching Netflix, while, in-between fluffing whole grains with a fork and making sure the stock didn’t boil, I was tucked under the down comforter, visiting with Stoker’s Dracula and listening to the wind howl.
I generally don’t start chicken soup with a whole chicken in a stockpot: I usually have oven-roasted chicken carcasses in the freezer for a deep golden, flavorful stock, and I supplement the meat with boneless chicken breast if needed. But, endless travel = not a lot of time at home for roasted-chicken-making: the larder is pretty bare. So here it is: a soup-to-nuts (heh) recipe for old-fashioned chicken soup, so packed with grains & vegetables it is almost a stew, entirely from scratch. The next time you find yourself with a few days at home in between airport lounging, give this one a try.
- 1 whole roaster chicken or stew hen, about 4 lbs
- 1 cup wild rice, uncooked (preferably 100% wild rice; all I had on hand was a blend)
- 1 cup pearled barley, uncooked
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 large carrots, peeled & sliced
- 4 celery ribs, with center & top leaves if possible, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped, or about 1 tbsp dried dill
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Poach chicken. Fill a large stockpot three-quarters full of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Rinse chicken inside and out (or not; your choice), making sure to remove any giblets stored in the cavity or tucked under the neck. Add the chicken, with the neck if included, to the pot. Cover, reduce heat to the barest simmer (one or two bubbles every minute or so) and simmer until the chicken meat is cooked through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Strip chicken meat. Remove chicken from the pot with tongs, allowing stock to drain back into the pot, and transfer to a large, clean plate. Allow to cool until you can handle the bird without burning your fingers. Remove the skin and discard. Break off the wings; toss back into the stockpot. Break off the legs & thighs: strip meat from the bones, adding meat to a clean plate and returning bones to the stockpot. Strip remaining meat from the carcass (don’t forget the oysters on the underside!) and return carcass to the stockpot. Store chicken meat refrigerated until ready to make the soup.
- Make chicken stock. Continue to cook the stock at the barest simmer. For a crystal-clear stock, never let the water come to a boil, which emulsifies the fat and results in a cloudy stock. Add a bit of salt and taste now & then: I find I like to simmer the stock for an entire day, or even overnight into the next day, for a really full-flavored stock. Stop cooking whenever you think the stock is flavorful enough.
- Cook grains. Meanwhile, in separate saucepans, combine 1 cup wild rice with 2 cups water, and 1 cup pearled barley with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and grains have puffed up, about 45 – 55 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let sit, covered, until needed for the soup. Alternatively, refrigerate overnight, or use a variety of leftover grains culled from the fridge.
- Make soup. In a large (at least 6-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Stir, sprinkle liberally with sea salt, and reduce heat to medium-low. Sauté , stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add stock until it is about 2 inches shy of the top of the pot (freeze any remaining stock for another recipe). Add shredded chicken meat and another healthy pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through and flavors blend.
- To finish the soup, add cooked grains, chopped parsley, dill, and several grinds of black pepper. Stir, taste, and adjust salt if necessary. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes for flavors to blend. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve with crusty bread & good beer.
Serves 10 – 12 hungry folk.
- I used a wild rice blend here, but I love the color & texture of a 100% black wild rice.
Refrigerated for up to 1 week. Frozen for up to 6 months.
Fall through winter.