Ahhh, Winter… the perfect time of the year for soup!
Who doesn’t like a nice steamy bowl of soup?
I think each of us has that same memory of eating a bowl of soup, while watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights. Or was that just me?
In any sense, soup is one of my favorite things to make. However, I don’t think I ever make the same one, since I tend to grab whatever I have around the kitchen that day.
Today I’m going to walk you through the way that I make a poultry soup. So, on the menu is turkey and chicken. I suppose you could certainly make a duck soup, but I’ll leave that one up to you and the Marx Brothers.
I’ll give a few tips, a few ideas, and some photos of the different soups I’ve made recently. Most importantly: When you make a pot of soup, make it the way that it tastes best to you and your family =0)
Let’s Make The Stock
Your soup’s broth is the most important component of all. That said, if you’re in the mood for a quick pot of soup, and you don’t have a box or can of chicken stock, you’re pretty much out of luck, right? Wrong….
When I roast a turkey or a chicken, I first keep the juices that have dripped down below the bird. These are the best! Many use the drippings for gravy, but I like stock much better. When it cools, you’ll notice it’s very gelatinous, and very rich in flavor.
After you’ve used the meat you’re wanting for your roast, I suggest you freeze portions of the leftover meat. Each portion should be just the right amount for a pot of soup. Some people like a lot of meat, others not so much. I generally put in about the equivalent of 2 large chicken breasts’ worth of meat per pot, but you can go heavier or lighter depending on your own taste. My favorite way to freeze the meat is by storing it in FoodSaver bags. They store flat, defrost quickly, and don’t take up much room in the freezer.
Once you’ve packaged up the leftover meat, put the carcass in a large stock pot. Now, look in your fridge. There’s bound to be a few vegetables that are nearly too old to use for tomorrow night’s side dish, but are still usable for your broth. A good start would be a couple stalks of celery, a few carrots, and a half of an onion (or in my case, a few green onions). Give the veggies a large chop and throw them in the pot. Add the drippings you kept from before. Now, cover the bird and veggies (just barely) with drinking water, and then add a few pinches of your favorite spices. Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to low and let it simmer for 3-4 hours. Once it’s finished, take out the large pieces, and as many small pieces of vegetable and bone as you can.
Ladle the juices through a couple of layers of cheesecloth which are set over a funnel, and placed over a glass jar. (You’ll probably need at least 3-4 jars). Make sure you don’t fill them to the top. They need a bit of air space*. Then they get labeled (check out my fancy-schmancy labels in the picture – ha ha!). Once they’re cooled*, they go into the freezer.
*Yes, air space AND cooled. As in “completely”. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and put in a full, hot jar and see how poultry stock can put a big ‘ol dent in the top of your metal lid. (…not that I know this from personal experience…. nope…. not me….ahem….)
Quickie Tip: Next time you buy one of those pre-roasted rotisserie chickens, keep the carcass and boil it in water with some root veggies & seasonings for a few hours. Voilá! You’ve made quick stock!
Nearly any vegetable works in soup. The key is to chop them into the right size, and to give yourself different shapes and colors. I personally love to chop veggies. It’s kind of therapeutic in a weird way. Maybe it’s my OCD rearing its perfectly coiffed self 😉 There’s really no rule as to how much to make – just use whatever you’ve picked up at the farmers market, or the organic section of your grocery store.
There’s also really no rule on which veggies you can or cannot use. My rule is: use what you like, and put in more than you think you need. You want to make sure there are lots of goodies on each spoonful!
Now For The Sauté
Once you’ve finished chopping, it’s time to sauté. For soup, I use either a coconut oil that doesn’t have a flavor, or extra virgin olive oil. Both are a much healthier choice than other oils. Usually a tablespoon of oil should be enough. Put the heat on medium and stir till the vegetables soften about halfway. If you find that you need more oil, add by teaspoons.
Add Some Stock
Now it’s time to add some of that stock you’ve made. If you know you’re making a soup in advance, you can defrost it overnight in the fridge. If not, you can microwave it on a low power, just till it softens up a bit. When I add stock, I only pour it in to just cover the vegetables. That’s all you’ll need for now. Put the heat down to low, and wait for a small boil.
It’s Time To Spice It Up
You may have wondered why I haven’t said anything about seasonings yet. Well, my guess is, there’s a lot of seasoning in that beautiful chicken or turkey broth you just poured on the veggies. Taste it. Ah ha! There IS a bit of flavor! Okay, now that you’ve done that, you have my blessing to add whichever dried seasonings you’d like to add. (the fresh ones come later). I have a few favorite standbys for my poultry-based soups: Sage, Thyme, Rosemary and Dill are my usual choices. I generally put in only one of these, followed by salt and pepper. Then I taste it. Then I might add one or two more, depending on my mood. Perhaps I’ll throw in some garlic powder or onion powder. Then I taste it again. I may even throw in a bit of cayenne pepper for some warmth. It really doesn’t matter which spices you choose, so long as you love them. If you’re not sure where to start, you can always take a look at my spice blog. Then, keep putting in small amounts, and keep tasting!
By the way… if you’re tasting from the same spoon, shame on you! It’s easy to just put a small spoonful into a glass and taste it that way.
Add In Meat
When you add meat, don’t cut it too small – those nice, big chunks are such a treat! Also, if you start with small pieces, oftentimes they’ll shred to tiny particles by the time the soup is heated through and ready to serve. Oh dear!
The Photo Finish
Now that everything is hot, add about another 1/3 of your liquid’s amount, in drinking water. Give it a good taste and finish with fresh cut herbs or greens. Italian Parsley and Celery Greens are my two favorites, however fresh Basil, Thyme, or Oregano are often found in my soups. Heat only a couple minutes, to keep the greens fresh, and serve.
And you know, we can’t talk about soup without probably the most famous “soup” scenes from television…