It’s time for a recipe that uses the Twizzler-celery I mentioned in the About section.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted because I’ve been out of town. I spent most of the week of Christmas at my parents’ house, and I helped my family make and eat deliciously unhealthy holiday food, but we left all the extras with my parents. I also went to California for a friend’s (3-day Indian-American celebratory extravaganza that was simply called their) wedding, where the guests were all generously fed the most amazing Indian food for 3 different meals.
So when I got home for good about a week ago, the cupboard was pretty much bare, except for some 2+ week old celery. I thought I should cook it since it obviously wouldn’t be bringing any crunch to anything if I left it raw. Soup sounded good because yes, like pretty much everyone else, I’m motivated to be a little healthier after the holidays. Also, the polar vortex has come back in full force, and I am refusing to consume anything that will make me feel even colder. Soup instead of a sandwich, red wine instead of white… You might even find me drinking lukewarm water.
This soup is one that we had regularly when I was growing up. When I was in college and asked my mom to send me the recipe, the answer she gave me on the phone was something like, “Uhhh…well…(imagine a genuinely concerned sigh of stress here)…I don’t really have a recipe but I can tell you what I generally do.” So, this is the first time I’ve ever actually measured out the ingredients while making this soup. In any case, these are the elements that absolutely have to be a part of it if we’re going to refer to it as the chicken and vegetable soup that I grew up with:
- Homemade chicken broth.
- No pasta. This is not chicken noodle soup.
- The vegetables must be onion, carrot, celery, tomato, potato, corn, and….
- …lima beans. But who wants to eat lima beans? They sound so unappetizing, right? Whoever did the marketing to get people to start using the term “dried plums” instead of “prunes” needs to jump on the lima beans goldmine ASAP because they really should be called butter beans. Or, if you’re my grandma, “buttah beans.” Mmmm…butter beans…doesn’t that make it sound like they’re going to be rich-tasting and creamy and savory? (Which they are.) I like the bigger ones, but you could use the small ones. They will probably be in a bag labeled “lima beans,” but don’t let that turn you off.
The broth of this soup is really important because it’s where most of the flavor comes from. It will take a while to make because you will need to leave it on the stove for a long time if you want it to end up tasting really good. I usually make it a day or two ahead of time, or sometimes I just freeze it and then it’s ready to go when I want to make soup.
When I make broth, my goal is to have something I could drink a cup of plain and enjoy. I want it to be herby and garlicky and salty. And most of all, I want it to congeal so much after I put it in the fridge to cool down that it is scoopable instead of pourable.
After the broth is done, the rest of the soup comes together pretty easily. You just have to chop, sauté, and simmer. I would highly recommend serving this soup with fresh homemade biscuits topped with a warm pat of salted butter and then a spoonful of apple butter, but maybe that’s just nostalgia talking.
Note: You can freeze this soup, as long as you don’t mind that the potatoes will probably break down a little bit when you defrost it. Also, for the broth, you might notice that the photos don’t look like they have the same amounts of garlic and celery that I listed below. I used more garlic because my cloves were quite small, and I used the celery heart and the leafy tops for the broth because I didn’t have a ton of celery and wanted to save the stalks for the soup. For the broth, I like to put the crushed peppercorns and allspice in a metal tea infuser ball, which works like a cheesecloth but is easier to use. Lastly, I cooked this in a bigger pot than I normally do, and it made 3 1/2 quarts, which is about 1 quart more than usual. When I cook it in my smaller soup pot, I think I use 2 potatoes, maybe 2 cups of butter beans, and about 3 cups of chicken. Probably a little less stock, too.
Chicken and Vegetable Soup
For the broth:
- 1 whole chicken
- 14 c. cold water
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, root end left intact, peeled and quartered
- 4-5 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
- 2 medium carrots, cut once lengthwise and once crosswise
- 3 celery stalks, cut into about 4″ lengths
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp. peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 1/2 tsp. whole allspice, lightly crushed
- a few springs of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. I used rosemary, thyme, and sage because that’s what was still alive in the garden. Parsley and oregano would work well too.
- Rinse the chicken and remove the gizzard/organs. If you have a dog and want to make her an especially happy puppy, boil those innards and then chop them up and mix them into her dog food.
- Put the chicken, water, and all other ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Simmer gently for about 2 hours. Flip the chicken after an hour or so if it’s not fully submerged.
- After about 2 hours, the chicken should be falling-off-the-bones tender. Use a pairs of tongs to remove the chicken from the stockpot, but keep the stock simmering. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pick all of the meat off of it, but don’t throw away the bones and skin. Set the meat aside—put it in container and stick it in the fridge or freezer. You’re going to put some of it back in the soup later.
- Add the chicken bones and skin back to the stockpot. Partially cover the pot with a lid and keep it at a bare simmer for another 3 hours or so.
- Strain the broth into a bowl or large container. I ended up with a scant 8 cups of stock. Let it cool for a little while, and then refrigerate it overnight, or until the fat on top has congealed. Remove as much or as little of the congealed fat as you want. The broth can now be used or frozen.
For the soup:
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 c. chopped yellow or white onion
- 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced about 1/4″ thick
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and diagonally sliced about 1/4″ thick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 14 oz. whole tomatoes in juice
- 8 c. of the broth you made
- 1 16-oz. package frozen butter beans
- 3 medium Yukon Gold or other boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 15-oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
- about 4 c. shredded or diced meat from the chicken you made the broth with. I like a combination of light and dark meat, but use whatever you like.
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- freshly ground pepper
- In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, 1/4 tsp. of the kosher salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown, about 10 minutes.
- Add the oregano, tomatoes, and the remaining 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Break the tomatoes up with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Add the bay leaves and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
- Add the butter beans and simmer another 10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and simmer until almost tender, about 10 more minutes.
- Add the corn and chicken and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Before serving, remove the bay leaves and adjust seasoning season to taste.