Sunday, November 21, 2010

Golden Chicken, Corn, & Orzo Soup

This soup was positively delicious, but the recipe was flawed...or maybe I only like to eat one kind of chicken soup. I added a bevy of spices in addition to the ones called for which made it sort of a Southwestern affair. I used homemade chicken broth which might not have been as flavorful as it needed to be. I was recently talking shop with a cousin and she said she "fortifies" her broth with a stick of butter. I did no such thing and therefore my broth might not have been altogether tasty.

A word about broths: I pride myself on the fact that I never ever buy the canned stuff (Well, I don't buy chicken broth. Beef broth is another story, but I don't use it that often and I have something in the works to that end anyway). I've become a fan of buying whole chickens and dispatching them myself. Err, I have Mark do that usually, but I think I could totally handle it these days. He'd feel useless if I stripped him of his "meat tech" title, though, so I let him have at it. Meat & handling meat turns Mark into a different person. His face just glows. I know how sick and sad this all sounds, but it is so very true. I felt I'd discovered something truly grand when I first put a big piece of meat in front of him. All was good in the world.

Anyway, back to the broth talk. When we cut up our whole chickens, all the "refuse" goes into a gallon-sized zip top bag. The backbone & marrow are supposedly really flavorful. I keep it in the freezer until I have a lazy Sunday or Tuesday (the life of a substitute teacher can be very glamorous, indeed). When I'm ready to make the broth, I pour the contents of the bag into my 5-quart dutch oven & add a quartered onion, a carrot or two, celery (if I happen to have it), several cloves of garlic, peppercorns, dried oregano, cumin & coriander seeds.

We also have a bag of veggie scraps: fennel fronds, onion skin (if it's organic. LRK says it's culinary gold), stems from greens, etc. If you invest in organic produce, you really should be saving your scraps. They make a delicious broth. You use the same method to produce a veggie broth.

If this idea interests you, here's a more thorough explanation by one of my favorite local food bloggers.

I have used her exact method before & perhaps I need to return to it. I got lazy when I made this particular batch of broth, so I didn't saute the veggies or anything. You could also roast them, which is more hands off, but produces flavorful results. Oh, and the addition of Madiera is nice. I don't keep it around, so I'll add white wine or vermouth. Marsala wine is also good.

Okay, so soup. We were talking about soup originally. This soup was really nice. We found ourselves adding lots of lemon juice at the table. This brightened it and made it super fabulous. Again, it was probably my faulty broth, but we found ourselves adding lots of salt. The lemon juice had a similar effect with less guilt.

Here's the recipe & I'll try to update our changes.

Golden Chicken, Corn & Orzo Soup

Adapted from Fine Cooking

olive oil celery onions thyme chicken broth chicken flat-leaf parsley lemons kosher salt black peppercorns

2 Tbs. olive oil (I used 2 T. of butter, because you know I can't help myself)
2 large ribs celery, finely diced

2 smallish carrots, cut into coins
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 pinch saffron threads (I didn’t have saffron, so I used paprika. They’re the same color, so they must have the same flavor, right?)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 qt. homemade or low-salt chicken broth
2 cups finely diced or shredded cooked chicken (such as leftover roast chicken) (We used 2 chicken breasts that were trimmed & smoked on our grill by the meat tech. He'll have to share his tips with you, because, man, it was really good. He gets more flavor out of those paltry things that taste so much like sawdust sometimes. He put together a super cheap, diy smoker situation for our little gas grill. However, grill season is over, so perhaps it must wait.)
1/2 cup orzo (I think that cheese torts would be good too)
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tip: You might wonder why the orzo is cooked separately. There are two reasons. If you boiled the orzo directly in the soup, the starch from the pasta would cloud the soup broth, and the orzo would also suck up too much of the soup broth as it cooked. Boiling the pasta separately solves both of these problems. (This is what FC has to say & I kinda agree, but I don't think boiling the pasta in the soup would be so bad either. I tend to like thicker soups. I guess that makes them stews or something, but whatev. However, I do think keeping the pasta separate would be a good thing if you weren't going to eat all this soup right away. We had several servings of leftovers and our pasta never got too soggy, but I worry that if this soup hangs around for more than 2 days, you'd probably want to keep the pasta separate.)

Bring a medium saucepan of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, saffron, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the chicken and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. While the soup simmers, cook the orzo in the boiling salted water until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Add the drained orzo, corn, and parsley to the soup and cook just until the corn is heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if needed.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size: based on six servings; Calories (kcal): 250; Fat (g): 10; Fat Calories (kcal): 90; Saturated Fat (g): 2; Protein (g): 22; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6; Carbohydrates (g): 19; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 440; Cholesterol (mg): 40; Fiber (g): 2;

So, I ended up adding Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, oregano, shoot, I don't know what all. After my first initial tastes, it was just so limp. & I started craving Patsy's chicken soup. Patsy's chicken soup recipe will have to make an appearance here at some point. It's spoiled me for all other chicken soups. Patsy is the mom of one of my oldest & best friends, Amanda. She & Amanda are the reasons I love food as much as I do (you know I didn't gain an appreciation for anything but restaurant leftovers living at Peggy French's house).

Anyway, her chicken soup recipe is a lot less fussy & much tastier, so next time, my friends. We'll pick up this chicken soup convo when I have a decent recipe to offer.

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