When autumn leaves begin to fall and noses begin to run, it’s time for chicken soup! In the spirit of frugal fun and saving money for the things that matter most, I continue my efforts to eliminate food waste by using up leftovers in creative ways. Today is a glorious autumn day in Tacoma, alternately bright and rainy, with a stiff wind that sends the clouds scuttling across the sky as if being chased by the frost-breathing wolves of winter. Autumn days like these call for soup. Here’s what I had:
- Homemade chicken stock made from the carcass of a roast chicken that I’d saved in the freezer, (See below if you don’t already know how to do this, but you probably do.)
- some chicken meat left over from the aforementioned roast bird, including the meat I’d picked off the bones after making the stock,
- half a bag of “baby” carrots that were past their prime,
- a few stalks of celery, also fading,
- half an onion,
- half a zucchini,
- half a tomato,
- about ½ cup of whipping cream left over from a previous recipe, (poireaux à la crème – leeks in cream sauce)
- some Uncle Ben’s rice – the seasoned kind in the orange box, white rice and wild rice mix, and
- curry powder.
- I diced up onion, carrots and celery, and sweated them in just a bit of olive oil in a medium saucepan with the lid on, stirring from time to time, until they began to soften – about five minutes.
- I added about 1 tsp. of curry powder and stirred that for a moment, then threw in the diced tomato and zucchini.
- Next, I added about four cups of the homemade chicken stock and stirred it well to scrape up the curried goodness from the bottom of the pan. In went the shredded chicken, about a cup and a half, about the same amount of cooked rice, a few cooked garlic cloves that had been in the cavity of the roast chicken, and the cream. After simmering for ten minutes, it was done. Delicious! Not heavy, despite the cream, with just a hint of spice from the curry, and very flavorful thanks to the homemade stock – perfect for an autumn day.
And another batch of leftovers is transformed! Tah-daahh!
For those who’ve never made stock from the carcass of a roasted chicken, you really must try it. Homemade chicken stock is so much more flavorful than that prepared stuff in a carton, and you can control the level of salt too. Here’s how I did it:
- I chopped up the holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery, one to two cups of each. You want to keep the amounts balanced, but you don’t have to be precise. When making stock, it doesn’t matter if the veggies are old and faded, or even a bit desiccated, as long as they’re not moldy or slimy.
- Here’s the sinful part – I’d basted this chicken with butter, so the frozen carcass was surrounded by a layer of combined chicken fat and butter. Pure gold! I hacked away at that frozen greasy goodness with a knife until I had enough to sauté my veggies in. Wow! The smell was amazing from the first minutes. Later I added some frozen parsley stems (saved for soup), a few bay leaves, about 2 tsp. of dried marjoram, and about 1 tsp. of poultry seasoning – I have two jars that I need to use up. I also sliced in a few cloves of garlic, and ground in plenty of black pepper.
- Next comes the frozen chicken carcass, of course, and enough liquid to cover. In the fridge I had half a carton of store-bought chicken broth – pretty flavorless stuff – so I supplemented that with some concentrated chicken “stock” in a little plastic tub, and plenty of water. I didn’t add any salt because the chicken concentrate is salty. I just added enough to cover the chicken bones – about eight cups of liquid in all. (You could use just water, but using the chicken stock concentrate and/or broth gives the finished product a richer flavor without having to reduce it for hours.) I brought all this to a boil and then turned down the heat to low, just high enough to keep it simmering.
- When it’s finished, after simmering for a few hours, the veggies are just cooked down to a sludge, having released all their goodness into the stock. So I drained the stock through a colander into a fresh pot. After 30 minutes or so, I picked the chicken meat off the bones and set it aside. Why is the meat always still hot enough to burn my fingers, no matter how long I wait? I threw the rest of the stuff away – it had done its job and died for a noble cause.
- Of course, the finished stock was greasy from all that butter, plus fat rendered from the chicken skin, so I put it into the fridge overnight. The congealed layer of fat looked like swamp sludge – don’t want that stuff running through my arteries. But cooking the stock with the chicken fat really adds to the flavor, even if you remove most of the grease before using the stock, which I did, of course. Just skim it off with a spoon and throw it away.
Happy soup-making this autumn! Do you have a favorite twist on chicken soup? If so, please share!