Monday, September 28, 2009

Kitchen Notes: Superior Chicken Soup Additions

Now that fall is properly giving us notice, I made a huge pot of Chicken Soup last night to get us a good ways into the week and, standing over it as it simmered, it struck me that two additions to the standard recipe are what make this soup so outstanding. Everyone has their favorite chicken soup recipe, and I certainly won't interfere with your basic model. But I do have two suggestions that I think make my soup even better than before I started using them.

Neither tip is original or scandalous, but if you haven't tried them before maybe this soup-making season you might try one or both out!

Tip One: Garlic.

So you have your basic aromatics. Your onion, your carrots, your celery (maybe, like me, you add a few parsnips, a bay leaf, a sprig or two of parsley). Now, add one more: fresh garlic. Since you're essentially boiling it, you won't get any harshness at all and the tender, sweet hunks are a delicious bonus to the usual mouthful of carrots and so forth.

For an 8-cup pot of soup (that's 8 cups of stock or water when you start making it), smashing, rough chopping and adding 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic give the broth a deeper and nutty aroma and just the most ghostly but comforting garlic flavor. Add the garlic at the very beginning with all of the other vegetables so it simmers into the broth and the meat and becomes gentle-tasting and mild.

More than four cloves, though, and you have Garlic Soup with some garnish. This may be acceptable to you, but I recommend restraint.

Tip Two: Curry Powder.

This I really love. A touch of curry powder makes the broth even more savory and fragrant without adding any heaviness (unless you mixed up with turmeric, which I avoid. It's not my favorite for this recipe.). For an 8-cup stock recipe, add 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite masala to the broth. For a doubled (or 16 cup recipe, which is what I generally make) add 1 tablespoon and then taste and see if you want a little more.

Add the curry powder at the end of cooking, once the soup has completed its simmer. I use bone-in skinless chicken thighs as the meat in my soup, so once I've fished them out, taken the meat off of the bones and shredded it with two forks, I add the curry powder along with the chicken meat back to the pot. Then you can either bring the soup back up to proper temperature and serve, or refrigerate or freeze.

You want a definite curry presence, but, again, you don't want to overwhelm the more delicate vegetal aromatics you added earlier.

My Favorite Curry Mixture

I mix this up and then store it in a tightly sealed glass jar. Good for soups, for rubbing on salmon (another post!), adding to shortbread, you name it. Here I refer to all dried and ground spices. If you are a fearful master chef, you would probably toast these spices whole and then grind them. I do not do such.

1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cardamom
1 tablespoon cinnamon (a little less if you use a strong veriety like Vietnamese)

If you ALWAYS like spicy curry flavor, add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper as well before mixing. I prefer to make it without the heat so that I can decide at each recipe if I need some "zip," as my grandmother used to say.

No comments:

Post a Comment