This is a dish that I make every few months. When I make a chicken dish, I frequently buy whole chickens and cut them up myself. I cut out the back and freeze the necks, wing tips and any trimmings to make chicken stock.
When I get 3-4 packages of frozen bits, I take them out and make refrigerator chicken soup. In addition to the leftover chicken bits, I use up any bits of vegetables that are leftover from other dishes that I have made that are cluttering up my vegetable bin. This soup is always different, because what I have on hand is what goes into it. Today it is heirloom carrots, diakon, sweet onion, green cabbage, red and green bell peppers and celery heart—the last few small stalks and leaves of celery.
In past renditions of this soup, I would defrost the chicken and fry it in the pot before browning the onions in the chicken fat. A few weeks ago, I used my broiler to brown some lamb bones to make Scotch broth. This worked so well I decided to try it on the chicken. It turned out to be much neater and safer—fewer splatters and burns—as well as giving the chicken bits a nice even browning.
Note: This technique had the added advantage of coagulating the chicken juices—that would have turned into a scum on top of the soup—into large clumps that were easy to strain out of the pan drippings.
Karl’s Refrigerator Chicken Soup III
2 lbs. chicken backs, wing tips, necks, trimmings
1 heirloom carrot, sliced in half lengthwise
1 stalk celery, cut in half
5 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 chicken breast, boneless
1 medium sweet onion
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1/8 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 small heirloom carrots, coarsely chopped
1 cup diakon radish, coarsely chopped
1 celery heart, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup dry wide egg noodles (or your favorite soup pasta)
¼ green bell pepper
¼ red bell pepper
½ tsp. Kosher salt, to taste
1. Put the chicken bits in a two inch deep baking pan and broil on the top rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the pieces to a bowl as they are finished browning.
Tip: The chicken bits will not brown evenly. You will need to keep an eye on your chicken and turn them over, to prevent individual pieces from burning.
2. Let the pan drippings cool slightly and strain out the coagulated chicken juices with a fine meshed sieve.
Tip: You may put the dripping in a cup in the refrigerator, so that the chicken fat floats to the top and congeals. This will allow you to control the amount of fat in your soup. Jan needs a low fat soup, but fat also boosts the flavor. How much you use depends on your own dietary needs and desires. Reserve some chicken fat to brown your vegetables.
3. Put the browned chicken, carrot, celery stalk and garlic in a large soup pot and add 8-10 cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer, covered, for three to four hours.
Tip: If you want a super stock, you may replace all or part of the water with canned chicken broth.
4. Strain the solids out of the stock into a large bowl.
Note: Many cooks would have you simply discard these solids. This always strikes me as wasteful. Once the solids are cooled, I separate out any bits of meat and vegetables that I can to return to the pot.
5. Wash out the soup pot.
6. Cut the raw chicken breast parallel to the cutting board into two thin fillets.
7. Put one to two tablespoons of chicken fat in the soup pot and warm it over medium high heat.
8. Brown the chicken filets on both sides and remove to a plate.
Tip: It is not important to completely cook the chicken through at this time, but the filets will be thin enough that they probably will. It is important not to overcook them at this time.
9. Without cleaning the pot, add the onions and sauté them over medium high heat until they are starting to pick up some color.
10. Add the garlic and continue sautéing for 30 seconds until fragrant.
11. Add the cabbage, carrots, diakon, and celery to the pot and sauté for three to four minutes, until some of the vegetables are starting to pick up some color.
Tip: The celery heart is the base of the celery and the last few small stalks and leaves. When you chop this up, reserve the leaves to add at the last minute or they will give the soup a bitter taste. Trim any dry brown bits from the base and slice it thinly before adding it to the pot. This is my personal favorite part of the celery.
12. Add the thyme, black pepper and stock to the pot and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
13. Stir in the dry noodles and continue simmering the soup, covered, for five more minutes.
Tip: The noodles will thicken the soup by soaking up some of the liquid and adding some starch to the broth.
14. Chop the chicken fillets into bite sized pieces.
15. Add the chicken, bell peppers, celery leaves and salt to taste. Continue simmering until the pasta is al dente.
16. Serve by itself as a one bowl meal or add garlic bread and a small side salad.