Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Comfort Food For The Weary Soul: Chicken Soup

Last week was rolling right along when we got a call from the Old Country (aka Pennsylvania) that we had lost a much-beloved family member. 
And after 34+ hours in a car over 4 days with 2 children who traveled like troopers, we have returned to a rainy South with weary souls and tired children. 
It is moments like these that words fail and food steps in to comfort the body. Much as the angels that brought food to an exhausted prophet in the wilderness, we will feed our bodies in an effort to replenish the spirit. 
So when I say Chicken Soup, I don't mean those ghastly collections of sob stories marketed to such members of society that relish the worst in literature at the sake of causing emotional distress to themselves and those around them in a flower-and-hearts version of  sadomasochism. It's like running a dungeon in a Cracker Barrel Gift Shop. 

Yes, yes, I am tired. 

Let me return to the actual topic at hand--real, hand-to-God chicken soup for an exhausted family. Which is to say, this time, we're putting it all in the crockpot and not making homemade noodles (*this*time). Because this isn't about re-inventing the wheel.

In a large crockpot set to high add....
1 4-5 pound chicken, defrosted and rinsed (be sure to reach inside and remove the bag of "bits")
1 bag of "bits"...sometimes it's just the neck or the gizzard or liver and hearts but add them in--organ meat is very flavorful
2-3 bay leaves
4 cups water
4 bullion cubes 
(or just 4 cups of broth)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-5 stalks of celelry, finely chopped
4 large carrots (or most of a bag of baby carrots) chopped in 1/4 inch pieces (or slices)
Salt, pepper, sage and parsley to taste.
Cover with the lid and go take a nap for a few hours....like 4.

With a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of the chicken at the meatiest part of the bird. The meat should be 165-180 to kill any bad buggies. You'll also notice that the meat and skin has pulled away from the leg bones.

Using a big spoon or two, pull out the chicken and set it in a bowl or large plater. Cover with some foil while you skim out the bay leaves and any pieces of neck or organ meat. Taste the broth to be sure you have the seasoning correct.

Now, remove the meat from the chicken. You can chop with a knife if you like even chunks or you can shred it with your hands. I often remove the two breasts at the top and save them for a different meal altogether.  

Toss the skin and bones--you've sucked all the goodness out of the carcass at this point. Return the meat to the pot and lower the heat. The soup itself is done. The noodles, i feel strongly, should never actually be cooked in the pot with the soup; but separately and added to the bowl according to one's preference. By the time you reheat the leftovers, the noodles would just be mush and that's not cool. I use a bag of egg noodles but I miss being in the North, where I could easily get a bag of the thin noodles used for hulusky...I guess I know what I need to get off my butt and learn how to make next, huh?

The Dev's likes his soup with ketchup. I've learned to just let it go and not be quite so insulted. I went so far as to offer to add a can of chopped tomatoes once. That was met with a stare of utter indignation.  We are from different worlds, he and I. 

But we'll get through together....
We will miss you, Popski. Thank you for
treating me like one of your own. 


Erin said...

First off, ketchup???? Why, Why, Why???
Second, I have a recipe for "heluski" (I think it's what you're looking for. We weren't really sure how it was spelled & that was how my great aunt spelled it. Her mother, my great grandmother, didn't speak English.) Let me know if you want it. I'm sure between your family & Mr. Devlin's you probably have a couple variations to choose from already.

betty crocker said...

oh, Erin, the things you find out about a mate AFTER you marry them (shakes head)....supposedly it's a New Jersey thing-?
As for the recipe-yes, please. I know what to do with the cabbage and whatnot after the noodles are made but I can't quite get the same texture as the thin store bought noodles I could get in Pittsburgh and-of course-those were the perfect noodle!