Monday, October 25, 2010

WORLD'S GREATEST CHICKEN SOUP




The leaves are gorgeous and the air has turned crisp. Autumn is in full swing. Can cold and flu season be far behind? No worries if you have this soup stashed in your arsenal.
Even if you had your flu shot and never catch cold-this soup will be your best ally on Thanksgiving for making gravy, turkey chowder and numerous other holiday delights. Those recipes forthcoming.

Chicken soup is as warm and comforting as a favorite pair of slippers. It turns out that the Jewish Penicillin may actually have some medicinal benefits. But, while the jury is still out on the healing properties of Chicken Soup, it is a fact that almost every culture has some form of chicken soup. Everyone loves chicken soup!
There are only two things to remember when making chicken soup:

1. The World’s Greatest Chicken Soup is made from chicken. Chicken bones, that is. The bones have all of the gelatin and collagen in them. There is no need to boil away a chicken-all you will have is “chickeny” water. Have your butcher set aside bones for you in the freezer or learn to cut your own whole chickens and save the bones.

2. Chicken soup does not come from a can, a carton or bouillon cubes. It takes chicken bones to make a rich, flavorful and heartwarming stock that you can turn into soup.

Enjoy!

Yields: 4 quarts rich stock

4 pounds of chicken bones (wings, carcasses, necks etc…)
Approximately 12 cups of water
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
(Do not add salt at this point. The stock will reduce as part of the natural simmering process and salting it can make it overly salty.)

1. Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot and fill with water only to the level of the bones and vegetables (this will guarantee a rich, not watery stock).
2. Place the stockpot (uncovered) over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
3. Skim off any scum that floats to the top. The scum will make your soup cloudy and bitter. Continue simmering for 4 hours. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken stock to steep.



4. Strain out the bones and vegetables and discard. Cool the stock, in your stock pot in a sink filled with cold water and ice, completely before storing covered in the refrigerator or freezer. Ladle off the fat from the top of the stock before using.
5. Stock may stored, covered, in the freezer for up to 3 months or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

From Stock into Soup

1 pound white or dark chicken meat, cut into small cubes
½ cup thinly sliced celery
½ cup thinly sliced peeled celery root
½ cup thinly sliced carrots
½ cup thinly sliced parsnips
½ pound wide egg noodles
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and White pepper to taste

1. Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a large saucepan or stock pot. Add the ingredients. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

COMFORT FOOD 101

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

I wait all summer long for cooler temps and the chance to make this homey comfort food. The rich creamy flavor and texture is nostalgic and will have your family clamoring for more. Nothing says love like homemade Mac and cheese. The bread crumb crust used to be a family discussion until everyone grew to love the crispy-buttery topping. Now everyone fights for the topping. Use the best quality cheese you can find-do not skimp and by all means, have some fun with it and try your favorite cheeses. I have made this dish with a sprinkling of Blue cheese for an adult version. I also have substituted whole wheat pasta instead of the traditional semolina pasta and no one complained. Attention all comfort food cravers-Skip the box and go for the good stuff-we are after all adults even if we need a bit of comfort now and then.

Serves 6 generously

1 pound macaroni or favorite pasta shape
3 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 shallot, minced finely
2 cloves garlic minced finely
2 cups of milk (I use whole milk for this)
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese-grated (I use White Sharp Cheddar)
1 cup Emmentaler or Swiss cheese-grated
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup of sour cream
½ cup bread crumbs-Panko* is perfect for this
2 tablespoons melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Bring a large saucepan with water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente (about 10 minutes depending upon size of pasta). Drain and set aside.
2. Place a large sauté over medium low heat. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add chopped shallot and garlic and sweat the vegetables until they are very soft (about 2 minutes). Add flour and stir together. Cook the mixture for several minutes to remove the raw flour flavor.
3. In a separate pan heat the milk until simmering. Add all at once to flour mixture. Whisk to prevent lumps. Add the hot sauce and cook until thickened (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat. Add grated cheese and stir until melted and incorporated.
4. Stir sour cream with cooked pasta. Add cheese mixture and stir to combine. Place in a lightly greased casserole.
5. Stir bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake at 350 until bubbly and golden (about 30 minutes).