My brother, S., gave me a cookbook for Christmas that I’ve been meaning to dive into as soon as I found myself with a little leisurely time. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is unlike any other cookbook we own. Instead of recipes, as one might expect, it offers flavor combinations, ingredient by ingredient. So cool! So often I find myself cooking and unsure of what to pair with what absent a step-by-step recipe. This book is just the ticket for such moments.
I’ve been wanting to make soup for a while (ok, all winter). With the aid of The Flavor Bible, I concocted a totally delicious chicken, mushroom and white bean soup in a lemony garlic broth.
To start, I made chicken stock. I’m yet to find a store-bought version that comes anywhere near the homemade stuff and so, for the time being, homemade is how we’re rolling when it comes to chicken stock in our house. I piled a stockpot full on chicken bones and one complete breast, big hunks of celery, wedges of onion and halved carrots. A few bay leaves and brimming with water, I let the stuff simmer for hours until our whole house smelled warm and welcoming. I strained the vegetables and bones out, shredded the chicken from the breast and set it aside in the fridge along with the strained stock until evening.
The trick to making your own stock, as I learned from my Great Uncle David, is to leave time for it to chill in order for the fat to solidify on the top. Then, before you put it back on the stove to generate your soup, you can scrape the fat from the top quite easily. It is far preferable to the oily skimming I’ve done in the past, both in terms of ease and effectiveness.
For the soup proper, I diced up half an onion and a few stalks of celery and sliced three carrots. Into a saute pan they went until they were browned and softened, at which point I added them into my stock pot. Then I sliced and sauteed mushrooms, adding these to the soup once they were browned along with the shredded chicken and the juice from one lemon. I minced a few cloves of garlic and thinly sliced another lemon (a la my grandmother’s chicken soup), tossing these in towards the end along with a rinsed can of white beans. I simmered the soup a bit longer, adding a generous dash of hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste until everything came together. John (using store-bought pizza dough) whipped up some breadsticks (rolled in parmesan and fennel seeds and other delicious things that he can’t recall…he doesn’t need The Flavor Bible‘s help the way I do) which finished baking just in time for us to heap soup into bowls and sit down for a cozy dinner on a rainy night.
Rachel here: The recipe I’m sharing this week is from my grandma on my dad’s side (my grandma on my mom’s side is/was my grandy). The last time that I had it with her was a few years ago when I brought John to Connecticut for the first time to meet my family. We went to my grandparents’ for lunch and this was on the menu. I had started gathering recipes from my grandma a little bit earlier and so, after lunch, I followed her into the kitchen and asked her for this one. Chicken soup is one of the great simple foods, I think, when it’s done well. So often, though, it’s a mediocre product. My grandma’s recipe (which she would want me to reveal she learned from her brother’s former wife because she was humble like that), however, gives chicken soup all of the tlc it needs to turn around and give that tlc right back to the person eating it. It is at once complex and familiar, hearty and basic. When my kitchen began to smell like my grandma’s house, I was transported back to that afternoon copying her recipe while she chattered about how nice John seemed while putting the lunch dishes away. I could see the sunlit snow through her windows and hear the quiet calm that always hugged her home. My house smelled like my grandma’s house last night and, frankly, as I come close to the one-year anniversary of her death, it is nice to know that she is a part of my home and my new family, that something as simple as chicken soup–and with it, my grandma–can be carried and woven and traced throughout my life.
Grandma’s Belgian Chicken Soup
1 roasting chicken (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds)
1 large onion, sliced
2 medium leaks, cleaned and chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
3 small carrots, sliced
1 parsnip, sliced
4 c. water
1 1/2 c. dry white wine
4 sprigs of parsley (plus extra to garnish)
2 tspn. fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme)
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves (I used 1 tspn. ground cloves instead)
1 T. instant chicken bouillon
2 tspn. salt
1/4 tspn. pepper
1/4 tspn. nutmeg
1/4 tspn. cayenne
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. half-and-half
1/2 lemon (or, one small lemon) thinly sliced
Combine the first eight ingredients (my grandma’s recipes always give instructions this way and I find it nice and concise), from the chicken through the wine in a large pot. Make a bouquet garni with the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cloves (or don’t…I didn’t, but if you are not going to then definitely go with ground cloves and don’t forget to fish out your bay leaf when the soup is done cooking). Add to soup pot along with bouillon and spices (by spices I am referring to the ingredients from the salt through the cayenne). Bring this all to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover, letting simmer for an hour or more until the chicken is tender.
About halfway through, rotate the chicken if it is not entirely covered by the liquid. When chicken is tender, remove from pot. At this time, if you have used one, you should also remove the bouquet garni. If you didn’t go the garni route, this would be a good time to find that bay leaf and pull it out. Remove skin from the chicken and cut the meat from the bones into bite-sized pieces. Skim the fat from the chicken broth before returning the now bite-sized chicken to the pot (if your chicken is on the larger side you may not need to add all of the chicken back into the pot which means you will have some very yummy meat for sandwiches…in fact, it’s so delicious that I would recommend erring on the larger side for your chicken in the name of having leftover meat).
Combine the egg yolks with the half-and-half and stir this mixture into the soup. Heat until hot, but do not boil. Stir in your lemon slices. Sprinkle each serving with chopped parsley, put some hearty fresh bread on the table and dig in.
Seriously? I think this soup is perfection. What do you think? I also think the stock would be a great base for other soups, though I’ve never tried it because this recipe is so good that I never want to not make it.
Janet here: As the older of this duo, I love reading how much cooking with her grandmother means to Rachel. It makes me feel so heartened to see the story continues even after the death of the cook.
Making soup always makes me feel so cozy. The process is so relaxing — cutting up the vegetables and other ingredients — and like baking cookies on a cold rainy or snowy day, it just makes me feel so safe and warm. This roasted vegetable soup is my adaptation of a recipe I first made from one of the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks. I hope you like it. As with most of what I do, there’s room for variations and individual ideas. Enjoy!
Roasted Root Vegetable Soup
makes at least 10 servings
20 ounces of turnips, peeled and cut into cubes
5 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 large potatoes, skin on and cut into cubes
64 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Put the vegetables into a large bowl. Dribble with olive oil and salt and pepper. Mix well.Put onto a roasting pan. Cook for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are done. Turn at least once in the middle to make sure all sides get roasted well.
After the vegetables are cooled, add to a blender a little at a time with some of the broth and puree. I happen to like my soup just one or two steps above mashed potatoes, but if you like it soupier, then you’ll want to perhaps use more broth in general.
Heat and serve when you’re ready. This is soup with substance, so all you need is some bread and maybe a salad to have a complete winter meal.