Soup is a great bond between all humanity.
As Janet Clarkson points out in her recent meditation on soup, “There are many cultures that do not eat bread or great, meaty roasts, or are too far from the water to have access to fish or to far from fast food outlets for chicken nuggets, but every society since very early times has had a liquid stable of some sort.” (Soup: A Global History, by Janet Clarkson, Reaction Books, 2010)
Soup is ubiquitous. It been so since the first hunter gathers stretched an animal skin over a low fire and filled it with water, meat and vegetables.
The cook was probably a Homo Erectus about 400,000 years ago. Hollywood gets it wrong with its emphasis on early man roasting meat. Despite the lingering attraction to the grill by today’s hunters and gathers of disappearing jobs or stock options, simmering meat in water uses less fuel, preserves more nutrients, kills more parasites, offers more opportunity for flavoring with vegetables and herbs and the simmering leaves a broth whose medicinal purposes are well known.
“Jewish penicillin.” There’s a reason why chicken broth is called “Jewish penicillin.” It builds up our immune systems in stressful situations and helps cure the common cold. And soup ties us magically to our most distant forbearers. Make up a batch and freeze what you won’t use in a few days in meal-sized portions. Its always good to have chicken broth available during the Winter months.
There are four basic ways to use chicken stock in soup: 1) in creamy soups thickened with flour and butter, containing milk and/or cream (I avoid these); 2) pureed with vegetables and herbs; 3) as a basis for complex soups like Gumbo; 4) simple broth with added vegetable and some kind of starch, if you like. The classic is chicken noodle soup, one of the essentials of child rearing.
Chicken Noodle Soup (4 servings)
- 4 cups chicken broth (stock with the fat removed)
- 1 cup onions cut into ¼ to ⅓ inch dice
- 1 cup carrots cut into ¼ to ⅓ inch dice
- 1 cup celery cut into ¼ to ⅓ inch dice
- 1 – 2 garlic cloves finely chopped (or more to taste)
- ½ – 1 cup chicken meat cut into ¼ to ⅓ inch dice
- ½ cup elbow macaroni or pasta
- 1 tsp Asian fish sauce
- Salt and Pepper to taste.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the elbow noodles. Cook them about half way through and add the vegetable and continue simmering. Add the diced chicken and fish sauce and cook another five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Alternatives and add-ons
Vegetable (all small dice unless otherwise noted)
- Red Pepper
- Shelled peas
- Ginger (minced)
- Greens (cut into thin strips and cooked)
- Spinach (cut into pieces)
- Potatoes cut in about ½ inch dice
- Corn tortillas ( great use for stale ones) (cut into small pieces)
- Noodle of different shapes than elbow
Meat, fish and eggs (Add according to cooking time needed)
- Cooked chicken
- Chicken Balls (see below)
- Thin slices of cooked beef
- Cooked turkey or goose
- Cooked white fish
- Beaten eggs
- Curry powder
- Chile Powder
- Asian spices
The truth is, you can go in almost any direction with simple chicken broth from Indian curries to French Gelatins. (More later.)
Here’s a bonus
- 1 lb. Ground chicken meat (in a 4 ½ lb. bird that’s the leg and thigh meat along with one of the two breasts)
- 1/4 tsp White pepper
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 tbs. Cornstarch
- 1/2 tbs. Soy sauce
- 1 Egg white
- 1/2 tsp Freshly grated ginger
- 1 tbs Dry sherry
- 2-3 Cloves garlic (minced)
Mix the chicken with all of the seasonings and the egg white. Mix it very well. Form into balls about the size of large walnuts and set on waxed paper cling wrap or aluminum foil.
Simmer in the chicken balls in the chicken soup for about 5 minutes. You can test one to make sure its ready.
(Adapted from Frugal Gourmet Cooks: Three Ancient Cuisines, Jeff Smith, Avon, c 1989, where there is a deep fried version.) The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome
Next week: The Greatest Cheap Meal in the World