Friday, November 30, 2012

Chicken Soup by Paleo Comfort Foods

We had our first, but short lived, cold snap in Austin last week and I had a craving for warm soup.  Having a good supply of chicken broth in my deep freeze, I decided to give the Chicken Soup from  Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen a try.  I've not found where they have posted this recipe online, so I hope you have this cookbook.  It's worth every penny!

I had chicken broth, but no cooked chicken, so first thing, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees.  I used boneless skinless chicken thighs.  As I didn't want my chicken to be greasy, I put it on a broiling pan.  I set my timer for 30 minutes.  If you have neither, you can use their suggestion of making broth with a whole chicken.  Whatever you do, please make your own broth.  Your taste buds and tummy will thank you.    

Once the chicken was in the oven, I started chopping vegetables.  I usually keep carrots and celery on hand, so this recipe felt a bit like cleaning the drawers out in my refrigerator.  The recipe calls for 4 cups of carrots. Just so you have an idea of how many carrots 4 cups is, it was 7 large carrots for me.  I didn't have a full bunch of celery.  I had about half of what the recipe called for, and I figured this was fine.  Celery packs a big flavor punch so a little goes a long way.

The great thing about making your own soup, is you can cut your veggies to the size you prefer.  I cut my carrots into rounds and my celery pretty finely.  I then minced some garlic and chopped up a few onions.

I put my frozen chicken broth into a measuring cup to defrost in the microwave.  Conveniently, the entire bag pictured above came out to be the the exact amount I needed.  I had to defrost in 2 batches.  Here is batch number 1.

The recipe calls for sautéing the vegetables in bacon fat.  I suppose you could use whatever fat you would like or no fat.  I decided to fry up some bacon to render the fat as bacon fat adds flavor and I didn't want to take flavor away from the soup.  Did I mention I was cooking this before breakfast on a Saturday?  The bacon did not go to waste, trust me.

Once I had bacon grease, I started sauteing my garlic and onions.  After 32 minutes, my chicken was done.  

I shredded the chicken using 2 forks down to the size I wanted in my chicken.  

Now, if I had thought this all through, I would have cooked my bacon in the pot I intended to simmer the soup in but I didn't think it through really at all.  This might be the recipe to convince me I should not cook in the morning without having a cup of coffee first.  I transferred my onions to my 5 quart dutch oven and added the broth, carrots and celery to this pot.  Once I did this, I realized that this pot was not going to be large enough.  Drat.  

I transferred everything with the addition of the chicken to my 12 quart stock pot.  I didn't have fresh parsley on hand, so I used dried.  Most dried herbs will have a fresh to dried conversion on the side of the jar.  I added the appropriate amount and some salt and pepper.  

I stirred everything up, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat to simmer, and set my timer.  

After simmering for an hour, here is my soup.  I was a bit surprised by how little broth was called for.  You'll note how much liquid that the veggies and chicken released while cooking.    

In the daylight.
In the kitchen light.

Accessibility and Cost of Ingredients: You should be able to find all of the ingredients except the broth, which you should make yourself, at your big box grocery store pretty inexpensively.  

Preparation and Cook Time:  If you don't prepare this in stages by pre-chopping/cooking some ingredients, you need to reserve a good chunk of time in your kitchen.  They seem to acknowledge this in the book by suggesting you chop the veggies the night before.  Regardless of how you do it, unless you buy pre-chopped veggies from the grocery store, you'll be in the kitchen for a while.  

Here is how my preparation time broke down.  

Chopping Veggies: 15 minutes.   
Making Bacon:  9 minutes (this was done while chopping)
Sautéing Onions/Garlic:  5 minutes
Cooking Chicken: 9 minutes preparation (putting chicken on pan and waiting for oven to preheat) plus 32 minutes actually cooking time (also done while chopping/bacon cooking).
5 minutes to shred the chicken
1 hour simmering time.  

My total time in the kitchen prepping everything and simmering was just about 1 hour and 45 minutes.   

Clean up:  Here is where my early morning pre-coffee cooking sessions suffer.  When I started making the bacon, I did not think ahead to which pot I'd eventually use for my soup.  And once I realized it, I choose a pot that was too small and had to switch again.   So due to my brain fog, I had more to wash than you need to have.  If you need to render some bacon fat, do it in your stock pot if you can.  If you have bacon fat already, choose a big stock pot to cook your soup in.  

If we imagine that I used the correct pot to begin with, I was able to put everything except for my knife and stock pot into the dishwasher.  I could have even put my stainless stock pot in the dishwasher, but decided to hand wash it instead.   

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!  This soup is chicken.  I realize that sounds a little stupid, but between the homemade chicken broth and chicken meat, it is everything you want chicken soup to be. It's a little sweet, a little herby, and the veggies give just enough bulk to fill you up.  But in the end you have this pure deep chicken flavor that I found quite lovely.  

This recipe freezes well and improves, as most soups do, the next day after all the flavors have had more time together.  

The next time I make this soup, I'll use my slow cooker.  I just noticed that they mention this can be done.  Yay!