Chicken Soup Made Simple

chickens.jpgWhen my mother made chicken soup, unless she was using a canned or dried variety, she had to start from scratch. In those days, markets had a variety of chicken to choose from: fowl, pullets, capons, broilers and roasters. For soup she might purchase a fowl, an older bird, past its egg laying days. If she chose, she could have one of our chickens killed by my Great Aunt Alice’s gardener, in which case she would have to pluck it and eviscerate it herself, which she often did. I’m very thankful I’ve never had to deal with a freshly killed chicken. I can see her still, pulling out feathers by the handfuls as she prepared a meal.

She would boil the chicken and then remove the skin and the meat from the bones. Alternatively, she might put some ingredients in with it, perhaps an onion and some celery to flavor the broth. Canned broth might have been available however she probably didn’t purchase it. Bouillon cubes were a poor substitute for the real thing. She was thrifty and usually used what she had on hand rather than spend money at the market. Convenience food was rare when I was small. You could find Jell-O, or puddings in boxes, however most things had to be made from scratch.

The chicken broth that comes in a box is one of my favorite ingredients.  I often use it to add to the cooking oil when I am frying a vegetable mixture with a starch like rice or another grain. It is a good substitute for additional fat when the mixture needs more “juice” to keep form drying out. I use it to enrich soups or make a white sauce for any number of recipes. It adds flavor and cuts back on calories when frying.

The other night I was casting about for something simple to make for supper. I often have some soup already made or a nice leftover I can reheat and maybe add to. That night I didn’t. Then I remembered the cans of chunk chicken on my pantry shelf.

I had thought of these as being of use in a salad, however, soup felt more appropriate for a chilly evening. I opened the chicken and poured the broth into a pot. Then I began to add ingredients.

First came chicken broth in the box—around two cups. I had a few mushrooms, so I sliced them up and added them. I put in some finely chopped celery and chopped a small onion. There were some leftover cooked carrots in the ‘fridge. I cut those into smaller pieces to add. Lastly, I spooned in thyme, lemon pepper, chopped parsley, and ground garlic. Once I brought the mixture to a boil, I added a handful of rice noodles and let it all cook for around ten minutes. It was delicious and filling.

You can vary the ingredients to suit yourself. Curry powder might be nice, as would turmeric. Quantities are to taste. Parsley is nourishing. Celery is important for flavor. Ground garlic is a very helpful ingredient and not strong tasting, yet it adds tang without sodium. The main ingredients are the broth and the chicken. If you have leftover rice you can use that. A quick supper is a wonderful help on a busy day, and with the holidays coming, days become busier than ever.