Big Girls, Test Kitchen: Small Kitchen Chicken Soup
EVENT: New Year, New Cold
TYPE: Healing, Small Kitchen Friendly
MAIN INGREDIENT: Chicken Thighs
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year. I was too sick to: I woke up on the morning of Friday, January 1st with a throat that felt like it was closing in on me. This progressed, on January 2nd, to sinus pain and a headache, on January 3rd to a nose that wouldn’t stop running, and on the 4th to a permanent feeling of having to sneeze but being unable to, with the result that my eyes just teared all the time. It was not the best conditions in which to start a new year.
On Monday, four days into the illness, I ran out of tissues. I went out to replenish my supply, and to treat myself to a fresh-squeezed orange juice. At the market, I wound up by the butcher, and recalling an earlier conversation with my sister Kate during which she’d suggested I make myself some soup, I grabbed a package of organic chicken thighs.
The soup I proceeded to make is not my mother’s perfect chicken soup. It’s not the flawless, cloudy stock you might see in a restaurant kitchen. I didn’t even use a whole chicken. This was because the market didn’t have one, of course, but I was ultimately pretty glad. There was much less chicken detritus, but not much less taste, because I supplemented the ordinary “boil for hours” technique with “brown and then boil” and it made a world of difference. In other words, instead of extracting flavor from a whole chicken, I extracted flavor from chicken parts browned in oil, and from carrots, celery, onions, and garlic, also slightly caramelized. Within an hour and a half of coming home from the market, I was eating truly flavorful soup. And the next day? I was all better. Which gave me the opportunity to play with my soup: I had it one day with chicken meat and rice, one day filled to the brim with chopped arugula and a squeeze of lemon juice, and one day filled to the brim with egg noodles.