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Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

Rich's Nice Chicken Soup

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Since this column is starting now in February, I thought it would be nice to begin with one of my favorite fall/winter dishes: a classic chicken soup. Every year when the leaves start to change and there is a chill in the evening, I start to crave a nice, warm soup. This recipe is so basic, and once you've mastered it you can make your soup in about 45 min.

Start with a 3-4 pound whole chicken or 3 pounds of chicken breasts with the bone and skin on (the whole chicken will make a tastier broth). Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Wash and cut the ends off of 2 large carrots and wash and cut the tops (leaves included) off of a bunch of celery. Take a small, sweet onion and remove outer layers. Cut the onion into quarters. Clean and remove skin of a small piece of fresh ginger root (about the size of one of your fingers). Slice the cleaned ginger root about 1/8" thick. Heat a large stock pot and add enough oil (grapeseed, olive, canola) to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil has reached its flash point (it will begin to smoke), add the chicken and all of the vegetables. Allow the chicken to brown, being sure to flip it on all sides. This will produce a nice, golden broth. Heat a pot of water to boiling, and when the chicken is browned, add the boiling water. Salt the water and let simmer, skimming the fat and other strange, foamy stuff at the top every 10 minutes for about a half an hour.

After the chicken and the vegetables have simmered for 30 min, remove them from the broth and put into a large bowl. Let them cool off so that you can easily handle them, then remove the skin and take the meat off of the bone. Dice the meat into small pieces, then the carrots and celery. I prefer my vegetables diced very small, but you are the captain of your own ship, so if you prefer a more rustic soup, make your dice larger.

Take the broth and strain it through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth. Add your diced chicken and vegetables and for the most part, your soup is ready. I say that only because the beauty of a good basic chicken soup is that you can adapt it to your likes and dislikes. At this point, you could leave your simple soup alone and do nothing more than season it with salt and pepper or you could add a starch. I usually like small diced potatoes, but sometimes I will add small tubular pasta like ditalini , sometimes rice. You can substitute ingredients at the start like leek for onion, or add parsley or fresh garlic or some other fresh herb at the onset. To quote Strother Martin, it's all up to you. Good luck!

Ingredients list:

3-4lb chicken or 3lbs of chicken breast with the bone and skin

2 large carrots

1 small sweet onion

1 bunch of celery

Kosher salt

1 small piece of fresh ginger root