Sunday, February 12, 2012

You be the Sommelier

If I may say, I've become rather adept at the frugal practice of making one whole chicken stretch for many tasty meals. I buy a very high quality chicken - these days I like the White Feather chickens from Bo Bo Farms. My idea is to roast the chicken, but jut the thighs, legs, and breast. The back, neck, feet (yes, you get the feet when you buy a Bo Bo chicken), and other parts go into the stock pot. I could roast the whole bird and then put everything but thighs, legs, and breast into the stock pot, but these days I prefer the taste of stock made from un-roasted bones and meat.

So I emerge with meal number 1 - roast chicken dinner. Last week my daughters and I ate this with fregola pasta with broccoli and turnips. But two small children and I will not finish two legs, two thighs and a whole breast. I tend to serve the dark meat at roast dinner, and save the breast for things when chicken isn't the star of the show, when it's just the protein delivery system.

Meal number 2 - daughter's lunch of shredded chicken breast, Chinese cabbage, and red pepper roll-ups. A drop of sesame oil and soy, and they gobble these up. The chicken is protein, the flavor and aroma comes from whatever else you add to the sandwich.

The point of this post is meal number 3 - soup. I make a simple stock using techniques from various conversations and cook books. I start with the aforementioned uncooked chicken parts, a whole onion in quarters, a carrot or two cut in half length-wise, a celery stick cut in thirds, and then, depending on what's in the kitchen, add things like a sliced knob of ginger, a bay leaf, a bunch of parsley or other herbs, a Parmesan rind, whole black peppercorns, and so on. Bring gently to a boil (Alice Waters, I think, said that stock should be made gently at all stages) and then simmer very gently for at least two hours, skimming the top at least once. I add salt after straining it and tasting, and not too much - anything I cook with the stock will also get salt.

My kids are very good eaters, but I haven't found too many soups that they'll eat with gusto. I want to change that - soup is a meal filled with potential. I can put all sorts of vegetables in soup, things that they might not eat if served as a side dish, soup is relatively easy to digest and is good for kids in that way as the evening meal, and soup tastes good and can be fun to eat. The version I made last week, on paper, seemed destined for failure. But ate it they did, and happily (alphabet pasta is my new secret soup weapon). Here's the recipe:

Chicken Soup with Bok Choy, Lentils, and Alphabet Pasta

Warm your stock in a separate pot while you cook 1 chopped medium onion in a small bit of oil over medium/low heat for a few minutes until the onion softens. Add chopped carrots and celery and cook some more, adding a little salt. Try to cook these aromatic vegetables as long as you can without burning them - they are the base of flavor and aroma for the soup. Add the chopped bok choy stems and greens and stir frequently. Add the washed lentils - I used only about a half cup for the whole pot here, because I wanted a soup that had lentils in it, not lentil soup. Stir some more, coat the lentils in the vegetables and their juices, add a little more salt.

Now add the warm stock and bring to a boil for about 1 minute and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot almost all of the way and let this simmer for 20 minutes, and then start checking to see if the lentils are done.

Meanwhile, take what remains of the chicken breast and shred it so that it will be nice in the soup, small shreds are easiest to eat. The alphabet pasta are tricky. Cooking them in water separately, for me, always results in soggy pasta (I need a brand for alphabet pasta that's better than Ronzoni, but have not yet found anther brand). I've started adding the dry pasta directly to the simmering soup about 8-10 minutes before I want to serve it.

So this is the finished soup, and let me tell you, it feels good to watch them devour something like this. I'm eating the soup too, mind you, and daddy wants a glass of wine with dinner. So please, you be the sommelier - what would you serve with chicken soup with bok choy, lentils, and alphabet pasta?

And by the way...if I can get away with not using all of the stock for the soup, I have meal 4, which lately has been turnips and their greens braised in stock - delicious! And meal 5 is leftover soup. Dare I strive for a meal number 6? Time will tell.


Anonymous said...

A LdH Gravonia might be nice, but probably not for the kids, just for you.

AndrewR said...

light, dry rose.

Anonymous said...

Dupasquier Roussete de Marestel

Rene said...

Alois Lageder Pinot Biancho or an arneis.

Nicola said...

light-bodied pinot noir or cab franc from the Loire

Anonymous said...

I would go with a Jurançon Sec, especially if like me, you enjoy a drizzle of meyer lemon with your chicken soup..

Unknown said...

Gamay all the way. Cru beaujolais or maybe an earthier touraine one for the lentils...
Gamay is the traditional pairing for alphabet noodles anyway.