Homemade chicken stock (Recipe: chicken soup)
Some people get hit with seasonal affective disorder, suffering in winter when the days are short and light is fleeting.
I get hit with seasonal annoying head colds. One each season, predictable as clockwork, when the weather goes from hot to cold, or from cold to hot. Or, seemingly, for no reason at all.
There is no cure, but there is amelioration: orange juice, hot tea with lemon, and soup made from homemade chicken stock. Trust me. If the stock isn't homemade, the soup doesn't work. I can't say why, exactly, but I know this to be true.
My new Joy of Cooking arrived the other day, and as usual it offers wonderful advice and information about the basics. Here's what it says, in part, about stock: "Stock is an exception to almost every other kind of cooking. Rather than seek out things young and tender, remember that meat from mature animals will be most flavorsome. Remember, too, that instead of making every effort to keep juices within the materials you are cooking, you want to extract and trap every vestige of flavor from them — in liquid form. Starting to cook in cold water, which draws out juices, is the first step on the way to your goal."
My goal is to banish each season's head cold as quickly as possible. I always have homemade stock in the freezer, ready to be turned into soup: the medicinal version, when I need it, and the delicious variations, when I'm feeling great.
By the way, this particular container of stock went into a Thanksgiving leftover soup, along with: some diced onion, leftover roast butternut squash and a raw butternut, 2 cups of cornbread-and-apple stuffing, a big handful of dried cranberries, a thick slice of turkey meatloaf, a cup of water, and a couple of cups of apple cider. Sounds odd, I know, but it all came together.
Chicken soup that feeds a cold
This recipe always works for me (sniffle, sniffle). Use this method to make stock with chicken necks and wings, or a roasted turkey carcass, which you just might have on hand today. Makes a couple of quarts.
1 roaster chicken or stewing hen, 4-7 lbs
1 onion, unpeeled, cut in half
1 large carrot, ends trimmed, cut in half crosswise
1 large stalk celery, root end removed, cut in half crosswise
12 or so whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Place chicken in a large stockpot with remaining ingredients. Add cold water to cover. Place over high heat until water comes to a boil; then reduce heat to simmer, skim any scum that rises to the top, and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours. Remove the chicken bits from the pot (it should fall apart, so dig around and make sure you get all the bones out), and remove the veggies, too; then raise the heat to medium. Let the stock boil down until it is reduced by half. Cool for 30 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer into a clean stockpot.
(Note: the incredibly overcooked chicken will have almost no flavor, but you can salvage the larger pieces of breast and thigh meat. Chop them, mix with celery and mayonnaise and a bit of mustard, add black pepper, and you'll have a decent chicken salad. Discard the rest.)
To turn your stock into cold-banishing chicken soup, add fresh chopped carrots, celery, and parsley to the pot (add as much as looks good to you for the amount of stock you have). Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Add your favorite egg noodles or small pasta like ditalini, and cook until the noodles are done. Eat while it's hot; it will make your nose run, but you'll feel better.