Paper Thin Chicken Soup

Part of what motivated my to review Paleo Comfort Foods earlier today in my last blog post is that I was cooking. I had something on the stove and I was waiting for it to get ready for further touch and attention.

Chicken Soup.

Now, I’m pretty sure that even if you go through every post in Food Porn, you’ll never come upon something so mundane as chicken soup. Or is it? Is is possibly possible that chicken soup is a metaphor for everything from curing ills to quintessential human well being, for a reason?

Yes, but only if you get it right. Tonight, I’m virtually teaming up with Julie & Charles Mayfield, authors of the aforementioned cookbook, to show you how to get it right. When you get it right, it’s that moment where right before serving, you spoon up some broth from the pot, without a scintilla of veggie or meat matter and if, if your knees don’t immediately collapse — combined with wondering, even for the slightest micro of a second that perhaps there may just really be a God — then you have not done it right.

Right off the bat, you must either start from scratch and make your broth and chicken all in one, which takes a while, or you use your own saved chicken broth, or you use a quality product from a good market. I like Trader Joe’s Organic Free Range Chicken Stock because I don’t make a lot of homemade and it’s very tasty and not salty, which is a deal breaker for any stock.

For many years I have had a particular way to make chicken soup, which is that now and then, we’ll go to the good markets like Whole Foods or Lunardi’s in our area, and get a rotisserie chicken. We’ll eat the breast and the legs with a salad. The rest of that carcass, bone and all, goes into the pot on boil, along with the aforementioned stock (no water; you want richness).

Cool It Down

Because it’s pre cooked and you’re using stock, you don’t need to boil for hours. I bring it to a boil and then simmer covered for an hour or so. But then you need to go to work to strip meat from bone, so here’s a good trick. Stop your sink, put the whole pot in, and fill it with cold water. After five minutes, drain and repeat and within a few minutes more, you’re working. If you have a good steam pot, that works well to separate and drain.

Chicken Mess

So up to now, I have made a very simple chicken soup: onion and a secret ingredient I’ll get to later. But owing to the book, I did a few additional things and came out with an overall improvement. That’s the theme, here.

I like simple, rich broth-chicken soup. Fuck thickening with wheat flour or starch. You don’t need rice, and you should not be feeding your poor kids noodles. Chicken Noodle? How about good, orgasmic chicken soup?

How about that? Where did fucking noodles come from, anyway? Do chickens like noodles? Is that it? What, is it? I dunno. But just forget about it.

So now we get to the paper thin part. As I said, I like light brothy soups with chicken and another thing or two. Up to now, I have always sliced yellow or white onion paper thin. I like to use an 8″ sharp Japanese utility knife for this. Then, I get green onion and I use the part from about 1/2″ from the root to 2″ up and slice paper thin. Owing to the cookbook, I did a few other things. First, I added some garlic, but because it was already in the pot, I just used a bit of powder. Celery. That will go so good with the onion. Again, paper thin slices.

Alright, so here’s the secret ingredient that just gives the whole thing a character that will make you question your atheism: lemon. Yes, lemon, but again, paper thin. And here’s the deal: the whole lemon, rind and all. Yep, just take your whole lemon, lop off the first bit, and begin slicing it so thin you can see through it.

Paper Thin Chicken Soup
Part Deux

Because everything is sliced so thin, it’s only a light simmer for a short time and yes, you eat the lemon rind along with everything else.

You can’t help yourself.

Oh, for the last touch from Julie and Charles, I added parsley. This, I chose to chop and add fresh.

The point is, there are a bunch of ways to do any recipe, or use theirs to enhance your own. You’re talking about real food that’s not overly processed, and so your options are limitless. This is a cookbook, but also a reference.

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  1. Elaine DiRico on September 26, 2011 at 06:19

    While I agree with the convenience of a quick soup (and heartily agree with the lemon!) a slow, low simmer gets much more mineral value from the bones. Organic is important here! We are very mineral deficient in this country, and a slow broth can make up for much of that. My easy trick is to put the stockpot, with broth and bones, covered, in a 175 degree oven overnight. No muss, no boil over, and you will see in the morning that much of the mineralization in the bones is gone. Strain and simmer the meat in the fresh until it is cooked as you like it. And if you have a good butcher, get some of the chicken feet into it, for added collagen!

    • Sean on September 26, 2011 at 10:37

      Interesting, Elaine, I’ve never tried stock in the oven. I have tried slow cooking roast beast and it turns out our oven has some sort of safety feature that shuts it off after four or five hours, damnit. My other caveat is that I prefer to use the gas stove on super low for a couple of hours rather than the electric oven all night, gas being a more efficient heat source than electricity. The (electrical) engineer in me hates to use electricity for cooking or heating whenever gas is possible.

  2. Trish on September 25, 2011 at 22:06

    When I’m on the road I make chicken soup for my husband so he doesn’t starve or eat crap. This time–I”m currently in New York celebrating the Natal Day Weekend–I simmered chicken legs in ready-made stock (I usually make my own but sometimes I’m lazy so I keep the pre-made stuff on hand) until the meat was getting ready to fall off the bones, took the legs out to cool and took the broth off the heat, added a can of organic diced tomatoes, a bag of frozen corn and a bag of frozen green beans to the broth, shredded the chicken and put that back in as well, seasoned with S&P and put the whole pot in the fridge. My husband scoops out bowls for himself and nukes them–since the veggies cool down the broth immediately because they’re added when frozen they don’t cook so when the soup is nuked they get to just the right amount of tenderness. Let’s face it, soup is friggin’ awesome.

  3. Sean on September 25, 2011 at 23:34

    Since stock in a can isn’t even sold here AFAIK, I’ve been making from scratch for years. Alton Brown, whose opinion I revere in most things, says that a pressure cooker is bad for broth as it doesn’t allow the essential goodness to flow out of the bones but there’s no way I’m going to bother having something simmer on the stove for eight hours so pressure cooker it is, and it tastes pretty good to me. I turn the heat down to the bare minimum so that it’s barely hissing, and let the bones and dodgy vegetables cook for an hour or two. The result easily gelatinizes in the fridge. As you mentioned, celery, or more often celeriac (ubiquitous as hell here) is a key ingredient. I don’t even like celery but it does wonders for stock.

  4. Felecia on September 26, 2011 at 05:17

    Weather is just starting to get fallish where I live, and this looks insanely good. Thanks – I’m definitely making this.

  5. mimi on September 26, 2011 at 07:36

    WHile i do no mean to be insulting to suggest that your recipe isn’t perfect, what augments a good chicken soup is the addition of strong tasting greens. Mustard greens are heavenly in that chicken broth.
    And I think you DO know the answer to the noodles in the soup. It helped the soup go farther, to feed more people. Once upon a time, people were so poor that doctors prescribed feeding an egg to a child as medicine.

    thanks for your nice articles.

  6. Alex on September 26, 2011 at 11:49

    I don’t throw away any chicken bones, not even the ones from our plates. I cut long bones in half with poultry shears to expose the marrow and put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. In that same bag, I also save the papery onion skins and any other part of the onion that I would otherwise toss in the compost bin. When the bag is full, I dump it in a pot, add water, celery, and bay leaf, and simmer for 12-16 hours.

  7. Stephanie on September 26, 2011 at 11:53

    Ha, this is so well timed since I just whipped up the season’s first batch of homemade chicken vegetable soup last night! Same deal using the lovely store bought rotisserie chicken, and I paired it with “the trinity” of onion, carrot and celery. In the last 10 minutes of simmering, before serving, I added shredded ribbons of beet greens leftover from a flurry of beet pickling the day prior. With some select herbs and spices (lemon is a great idea!), it turned out wonderful and we have plenty of leftovers.

  8. 09/26/2011 » CrossFit Mount Laurel - on September 26, 2011 at 18:34

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  9. Gina, Positively Radical on September 28, 2011 at 15:37

    Looks good to me. I use Costco rotisserie chix carcasses and add the gelled bits at the bottom of the container. You can make a quick tasty soup or put it in the crockpot overnight. I can’t cook stuff in the crockpot overnight because I get up in the middle of the night smelling food.

    I like to add Mexican flavors like oregano and lime juice, then add chopped fresh cilantro to each bowl. Chopped avocado is also nice to add to the bowl. I also like Indian flavors, to make a kind of Mulligatawny soup with cumin, turmeric, cilantro, onion slices and lemon. Soup is good food.

  10. Monique on September 28, 2011 at 10:40

    Paper thin onions and lemon? Inspired! I can’t wait to try this for myself.

  11. Lesley on August 27, 2012 at 17:37

    The paper thin slices of lemon sound like a bleeding stroke of genius. Can’t wait to try it.

  12. Judy on August 27, 2012 at 18:20

    Yum! I’ve considered adding lemon to chicken soup before, but I couldn’t find any recipes to go off of, and I was worried it would turn out weird. I’m definitely trying it next time!

  13. Kate Ground on August 27, 2012 at 18:55

    Yum. That looks like a good caldo de pollo….try some cilantro instead of parsley. Goes real well with the lemon

  14. lucy on August 27, 2012 at 19:35

    Ah, just literally finished off a bowl of frozen homemade bone broth and left-over chicken. Et Voila, chicken soup. Crude as it may have been, it tasted delish. And I feel so virtuous eating it, like I’m slurping up goodness with every spoonful. Yay for chicken soup. :)

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