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In praise of soup

November 1, 2010

Soup is a beautiful thing. It can take 30 minutes or 6 hours. It can be rich or clean, simple or complex. It can be full of vegetabley goodness or chock full of meaty deliciousness.

I was feeling down in the dumps on Saturday. Could you tell? Today was much better. I got a lot done – I read the newest Jim Butcher book, an anthology entitled “Side Jobs;” I got laundry done; I did like five loads of dishes; I folded and put away clothes (including winter stuff I hadn’t touched since we moved in back in July); I weeded through the wardrobe for things to give to Goodwill; I went to Goodwill and bought cookbooks; I went to the post office; I cashed a reimbursement check; and I made chicken vegetable soup.

Do you know how good homemade chicken vegetable soup can be? With sourdough bread? I’ve promised myself I’ll never eat canned soup ever again. It’s disgusting when compared to the homemade kind. And y’know what? The homemade kind doesn’t take all that much effort – just a little time. I’m sure this recipe could just as easily be made in a crock pot.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

1 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken (I used legs/backs)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large white onion, diced
glug olive oil
1/2-1 cup frozen corn
1/2-1 cup frozen peas (I used petit pois, teeny French peas, but you could sub green beans or regular peas)
1 large red potato, washed and cut into small chunks
salt to taste
pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, saute onions and carrots in olive oil until onions are soft. Add rinsed chicken parts and plenty of water to cover. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until chicken is very tender. Fish out  the chicken, pull off the skin, and cut meat off the bone and into chunks. Skim most (but not all) of the golden fat off of the broth. Return the chicken to the broth and add other vegetables. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with bread for dipping in the broth.

This is a very clean-tasting chicken soup. You’ll need quite a bit of salt to flavor it well, but taste it to make sure. The peas give it a little springy green note and the corn is sweet. It tastes healthy. Is it any wonder people prescribe it for the common cold?

There is just something warm and homey about a homemade soup and the staff of life – bread. Simple chili with cornbread, beef barley vegetable soup with French bread, creamy potato leek or green onion and potato soup (which doesn’t need bread), French onion soup with homemade buns, tomato chickpea soup with something crusty. These are my favorites (along with chicken and vegetable soup). Good bread is crucial, too. No pre-sliced sandwich bread here (unless it’s multi-grain and you toast it). French baguettes, sourdough rounds, homemade buns, these are my favorites. Bake it yourself if you can, or get it from a bakery. Even grocery store bakery bread is better than none at all.

Did I mention that soup is cheap? Onions, carrots, potatoes, maybe some celery or lettuce or greens, frozen staples like corn and peas. Maybe a little meat or milk or cream or eggs. And that meat? It can be tough stuff too, if you’ve got the time.

I’ve always loved soup, but today at the Goodwill, I picked up a Time Life cookbook from “The Good Cook” series. Guess what the topic is? You guessed it – soup. Although published in 1979, it contains clear photographs accompanied by instructions along with suggestions for variation. And aside from the seafood soups (I’m allergic to shellfish), everything looks pretty darn good.

Soup seems made for autumn. And winter. And still-cold-and-raw springtime. The funny thing about “The Good Cook: Soup” is that it talks a lot about soup being the first part of a meal. Y’know, back in the day when meals actually featured more than one course? I myself prefer soup as a whole meal. Which is why I’ve never made many pureed soups. I like chunks, myself. Even my leek and potato soup is chunky. Just makes it feel more like a meal, I guess.

And now that I have a full tummy and warm feet it’s time to do what I’ve been neglecting all day: homework. 😦 Isn’t school done yet? *sigh*

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