I make chicken soup with whatever bits I have in the refrigerator, the backbones and wingtips of chickens, leftover bits of vegetables from other meals. This recipe is never the same twice, because what vegetables go into it depends entirely on what I have on hand. I do try to get a balance of colors, starch and flavors, but it is always different.
If I am making this soup on a weekday I will use canned broth, but on a weekend I like to make fresh chicken stock. This process can take hours. Today, I am using the leftover bits from when I cut up whole chickens. When I do this, I am left with the neck, backbone, wing tips, ribs and wing joints, and gizzards. These go into zip-lock bags and into the freezer. When I have two or three packets of these it is time to make fresh chicken stock.
Last week I bought a stalk of celery from the farmers’ market. Unlike the ones that you buy in the supermarket, this one was picked very late in the growing cycle and it had quarter pound of celery heart. I have been eyeing this all week thinking what a great soup it would make.
We had tacos last night, so I also had some chopped tomatoes and onions that I needed to use up. I did not have green cabbage, but I decided that leeks would be better, if I was going to have to make a store run anyway. Finally, I had half an orange that has been sitting on my counter that would add a nice citrus note. Some extra chicken, thyme, some noodles and a bay leaf would be good as well. This is what I produced today.
Karl’s Refrigerator Chicken Soup II
1 lb. chicken (2 backbones and bits, and 4 boneless thighs)
1 large bay leaf
2 Tbs. butter
1 medium yellow onion (actually half an onion and ½ cup of chopped onion)
1 cup celery and celery heart, chopped
2 cups leeks
10 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup tomato, diced
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. black pepper
½ navel orange
1 cup wide noodles
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1. Put the chicken in a large soup pot. Add water to cover and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Tip: You can use half of the butter to brown the chicken bits well before stewing the stock, but today I did not.
2. Remove any large pieces of chicken (breasts or thighs) to a bowl and refrigerate. When cool enough to handle, chop them into bite sized pieces.
3. Add a bay leaf and continue simmering the chicken bits for two to three hours.
4. Remove the chicken bits to a bowl and let them cool completely. Discard the skin, any bits of fat, and the bones. Add any meat scraps to the bowl of chicken.
5. Strain any bits from the stock and place it in a bowl.
Tip: If you have time, refrigerate the stock until completely congealed and skim the excess fat from the top.
6. Coarsely chop all of the vegetables.
7. Clean the pot and add the butter, onions, and celery. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes
8. When the onions are starting to pick up some color, add the leeks. Stir fry for five more minutes.
9. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add the garlic to the bare spot in the middle. Stir fry the garlic for 30 seconds and then mix it into the other vegetables.
10. Add the tomato, thyme, black pepper, chicken stock, and dry pasta.
11. Run a paring knife around the inside of the orange skin of half an orange. Cut just inside the skins of each segment and pop out the half segment of orange. Continue around the fruit removing all of the segments, but leaving all of the tough skins behind. Add the fruit to the pot.
12. Bring the pot to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes (until the pasta is al dente).
13. Add salt to taste and serve.