Friday, February 10, 2012

Xan: Chicken Soup for the Chris!

This post will not contain a single pun.

Back in December, Chris VA came to break our apartment.  Fortunately he was deathly ill the entire visit.  It took all the strength he could muster just to break the Santa Claus foam ornament we had helpfully clipped to the pull switch so he wouldn't fumble for it in the dark.  When I walked into the room, there was Chris, holding Santa's head, still connected to the body by a thin piece of stretched wire that had formerly been a coiled spring neck.  Needless to say, Chris went immediately on the naughty list and didn't get any good presents this at Christmas time.

But he couldn't do any serious damage in his weakened state.  Perhaps possessed of insanity, I took up the task of feeding him chicken soup.  

If you own Best Recipes in the World, you know that Mark Bittman is obsessed with homemade chicken stock.  "Chicken stock, preferably homemade" appears on pretty much every other page.  And according to Cooks Illustrated's New Best Recipe cookbook, chicken soup must be made with homemade chicken stock.  Now, I don't subscribe to musts in my kitchen.  And it's clearly not optimal to use homemade chicken stock no matter what.  But I was curious to see the difference.

By the way, in case I somehow haven't made this clear yet, there are few things more satisfying than processing a chicken from start to finish.  (The noble chicken is no match for mom's old Chinese meat cleaver, which I have de-rusted and sharpened).  And a side effect of all this chicken deboning is that I have a constant supply of chicken backs and bones that I just chop up and throw into a freezer bag for later.  3 chickens=stock! 

[Note: I've mostly been disappointed with the Cooks Illustrated cookbook.  (It's an interesting read, but most of the recipes I've tried so far took too much effort for not enough payoff). But their chicken stock method is a winner.  Basically, you hack the chicken backs and bones into small (2-inch or so) pieces, cook a diced onion for a few minutes, brown the chicken pieces in a few batches, then put all the onion and chicken parts over low heat, covered, for about 20 minutes until they release a lot of liquid.  Then you add water and cook for like another 20 minutes.  (1) The major innovation seems to be cutting the chicken into small pieces, which gets the flavor out much quicker.  (2) You people who know about these things are going to be like, where's the carrots and celery?  But according to their blind taste tests, the onion is essential and the others make no noticeable difference here.  That's good enough for me, because I believe in Science.]

So how was it?  Delicious:

Epic chicken soup!
Here's the product placement shot:

Yes, I used orzo, because orzo is awesome.  Look, here's Chris' reaction to his first encounter with orzo:

Even Cecil Sagehen is interested in what's become of his fellow fowl.

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