Shhh… I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Now, as when any secret is divulged, the teller risks losing the trust or esteem of the listener, but some things are worth the price.
You see, I’ve come to realize one little secret in the past couple years and I haven’t really come out and told you this yet, but once you know it, and believe in it, your life is about to get a whole lot easier. And more soup rich (which is a wonderful thing).
You see, you can make a stockpot of the most amazing chicken soup in just under an hour.
I’m talking from the time you unpack your grocery bags to when you’re sitting down and enjoying a bowl– one hour.
How? Because you are starting with a rotissserie chicken from the market and going from there.
Now, before I lose half of you, let me tell you that it’s true; a long developed chicken stock, starting with a whole raw chicken (and maybe boosted in flavor with some additional chicken necks) and simmered gently for hours can be divine. I learned that method in cooking school and for good reason. Your resulting stock will be both delicately clear and robust and soul-sustaining, and that’s hard to beat.
But how often though do you have four hours on hand to cook a chicken stock — before you even make the soup?
No, when I want a homemade soup I want to have it in front of me sooner vs. later and not have to wait the better part of the day for it. Say I get the urge mid-morning; if I pop over to the market (say New Seasons, Whole Foods or even QFC) for a chicken I can be eating that soup for lunch.
And guess what — with a few tricks, it’s going to be flat out delicious.
Here’s how to go about it.
Take that rotisserie chicken from the store– or even better yet, start with that leftover chicken you cooked last night because you knew that doubling up then would make today’s soup making even easier.
Friends and regular readers of mine know that I roast a whole chicken once a week; just as often as not, I cook double the amount I’ll need on the first night and use the second whole bird for a second meal (like burritos or enchiladas) or a big pot of soup.
But let me also tell you that I often reach for a good rotisserie chicken when time is short and I want to make a soup, like this weekend’s lunch that was– yes, it’s true!– made with a Costco roast chicken.
Chicken Soup with fresh ramen, sesame and spinach.
So let’s get started.
Wherever your roasted chicken comes from, remove and discard the skin (or you or your dog can enjoy it) and set aside all the meat from the carcass. I usually grab the breast meat and the thigh meat leaving the wing and leg in the stockpot, but you decide what you want for the finished product and what you want to flavor the stock (and will be soon discarded).
(Your stock will be richer with more meat in the stockpot and will intensify if you can let it simmer for as long as 1 and a half hours–but 30 minutes in not too much water will do for these purposes.)
Cube or shred your reserved meat and be sure to give it a flavor jolt: a little good salt, pepper and perhaps a little zest or garlic.
Now put your picked-over chicken carcass in the stockpot and if you have any leftover roasted vegetables around, throw them in; if you don’t have any of those, add celery, carrots, or any bits and pieces from your vegetable drawer that might be good in your end result (like whole garlic or sliced ginger).
Add water just to cover the chicken bones, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a high simmer.
Now here’s the fun part.
While most chicken soups have you make the stock, and then build the soup, my trick here is that you are building the soup while you’re also making a quick stock, and when both are ready in about thirty minutes, you join them for the last 20 minutes or so of cooking.
In other words, concurrent cooking/prepping saves so much time.
Take yesterday’s soup.
I started a quick chicken stock from a rotisserie chicken and then started cooking some quick-cooking red lentils from Trader Joe’s.
I added them to a pot with garlic, ginger and water along with some spices (turmeric, cardamom, cumin and coriander) and brought to a boil, and then a hearty simmer.
In a separate pot, I cooked some shallots until caramelized (I can do this in 10 minutes over a high heat with a little butter and then chicken stock). I added these cooked shallots into the cooking lentils, and when the cooked lentils were done in 30 minutes, I strained the chicken stock, discarding all bones and tiny pieces of shredded, collapsed chicken that came off the carcass. and
I then combined the lentils and chicken stock plus the reserved meat, and let it all simmer together for the last twenty minutes or so.
I adjusted for salt and pepper and gave it a boost of flavor with the juice and zest of two limes and some Sriracha.
I topped with savory granola, but anything with crunch would work great — sliced almonds, crumbled pita crumbs, whatever sounds good to you.
I ate my bowl of Chicken and Dal soup just an hour after deciding to make it — and then I set out to share my largesse with pals I didn’t get to visit on Mother’s Day.
Does this make sense to you?
And can you see how a great chicken soup is infinitely flexible with whatever you have on hand or are in the mood for? And that it will be so much better than anything you’ll find in your pantry — and far less expensive than any hot versions at your favorite market?
Once I’ve discovered this short cut, I started making homemade chicken soup all the time.
Just last week I was craving a chicken soup, but this time with an Asian flavor profile.
So I made this with some Thai red curry paste and leftover rice and yellow peppers with lots of fresh cilantro and basil.
So whatever you do, stop beating yourself up about picking up one of those already cooked chickens at the market — and if you’re not already hip to the rotisserie trick, pick one up this week and make my one hour soup.
To get you started, just remember that in addition to the chicken stock and meat you probably want at least one:
- Starch: white or brown rice, orzo, quinoa, chopped potatoes, cooked beans or dal, or any kind of noodle (udon and ramen being current favorites)
- Veggie: asparagus, peas carrot, squash, broccoli, spinach, escarole, zucchini, cauliflower, to name just a few
- Flavor Hit: citrus, garlic, ginger, fresh herbs, sesame oil, spices, hot sauce, curry paste, miso, Parmesan, truffle oil, hot sauce
Friends often ask me for a recipe of my soups but I almost never have them because they’re never the same, and I usually just mix and match ingredients based on my mood/fridge contents.
I can tell you that these are some of the ingredient combos on frequent Chicken Soup rotation: Asparagus/Sesame/Tofu, White Bean/Fennel/Thyme, Udon/Broccoli/Miso, and Quinoa/Squash/Lemon/Arugula.
And here’s one last piece of advice: don’t forget the topping.
If the soup is primarily smooth, maybe opt for a crunchy topping, but if you’re soup is full of texture already (like yesterday’s soup), opt for something creamy (like a drizzle of Greek honey or this herby tahini sauce).
(Have a question? Email me — I love to answer food questions.)
Lastly, a very happy but belated Happy Mother’s Day to all of those out there.
Whether you’re a Mom in reality or in hopes, a teacher, a neighborhood nurturer or even just a great girlfriend to others, I send you a virtual cup of liquid love.