I have heard some surprising news from several readers since writing the post about Southwest Chicken Soup. People are confessing that they have NEVER made homemade chicken soup! In an effort to promote soup-making as a therapeutic activity guaranteed to encourage an inner smile, I am going to share more chicken soup secrets with you today. On an otherwise blah day, life can be dramatically improved if you make a pot of homemade chicken soup.
First of all, it’s hard to start a pot of soup without fresh onion, celery and carrots, so make sure you have those on hand. Chop up the onions and the celery, add them to the pan with just a little bit of olive oil. As they start to cook, stir the pot so you can smell the deliciousness.
When the vegetables have cooked for 5 minutes or so, add the chicken. You can use thighs or breasts. I buy chicken on sale and freeze it. Skinless, boneless chicken is easiest, but if you find a good sale and want to pick out all the skin and bones when the chicken has cooked, go for it. Thawed chicken does not keep well… so if you have some in your fridge, it’s another sign that it’s time to make soup. Dump it in the pot with the vegetables and add a cup of water so you’ll have things cooking nicely without sticking (and burning) to the pan. It’s a good idea to cover the pot to keep in the moisture.
It will take about 30 minutes for the chicken to be well-cooked. When it’s done, you’ll be able to chop it up in the pot with a spatula. It’s okay to leave it in larger pieces, but I like to get mine all chopped up so the chicken is distributed throughout the soup.
At this point it’s time to talk seasoning. You can start with salt and pepper. Or use some mixed seasoning…the kind that has various ingredients already mixed in, like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. For this soup add some rosemary and some thyme. How much? I don’t measure….but it’s probably a teaspoon or two of each. I just shake some on top of the meat/vegetable mixture, lightly covering the mixture. I always add a couple teaspoons of garlic powder too…and a bay leaf.
Once you have the chicken and vegetables cooked and seasoned, add chicken broth. Use a large box or can of chicken broth (I look for the one with no MSG and low sodium)…add another one if you want to feed a bigger crowd. (At this point, you can cool it all down and put it in the fridge. The flavors will be even better tomorrow!) Next add carrots, green beans, or any leftover vegetables that you may have. Sometimes I even add zucchini. Make sure you have plenty of liquid in the pot…if you don’t, add more broth or water. (broth gives you more flavor)
When you’re almost ready to serve the soup, add a whole bag of Trader Joe’s Tortellini. Keep that soup bubbling … not a rollicking boil, just bubbling. In 15 minutes the tortellini will be done and the soup is ready to eat! Do not put the tortellini in the soup until you’re almost ready to eat it. If you do, the tortellini will absorb all the liquid and swell up, leaving you with chicken tortellini stew. (If this happens, just serve it anyway …but don’t call it soup!) You can always add more broth to the stew…you can actually keep that soup going for a long time by adding broth and other leftovers such as rice, pasta, potato, beans. This is called “The Soup That Never Dies” in our house.
If you are one of those who has never tried making chicken soup from scratch, I hope you’ll go for it. Let me know how your soup comes out! And don’t forget to add slices of fresh avocado on top!