Cooking the freezer: chicken soup (again) ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

30 May 2011

Cooking the freezer: chicken soup (again)

So the roast chicken we made last October (side note: holy crap, October??) has served us well for an astoundingly long time. Witness yesterday, when I dove into the freezer to pull out our remaining two frozen leg-thigh chunks.

We were out of frozen chicken broth, but that's ok. Veg broth is pretty much always kicking around at our house, and it works just fine for our purposes. Maybe the broth was a little thinner and less gelatinous than chicken broth; so what? It's still delicious. Plus there were actual chunks of chicken, which, you know, make up for it pretty well.

The last time I made freezer chicken soup, it turned into a chowder. This time, I went more toward the French-feeling chicken-mushroom bisque area. I mean, it's not really a bisque (or French), but the ambiance fits. I did, however, use my favorite trick for instantly turning brothy soups into cream-of-awesome: cream cheese.

Chicken, mushroom, & cream cheese soup

onion, shallot
a carrot (& stick of celery if you have any)
half a jalapeño if you need to use one up
a big handful of mushrooms
water &/or vermouth to deglaze
cooked chicken
vegetable broth
salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder
cream cheese
fresh cilantro/parsley/chives for garnish

First, chop up your onion and shallot and sauté them in butter over medium-high heat. I used half an onion and half a shallot, but it would be fine to mess with the proportions a bit. Mince your jalapeño; scrub and dice your carrot; slice your mushrooms. Add each vegetable to the pot as you finish chopping. Throw in a pinch of salt and let everything brown for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Then (or earlier, if the pan gets too hot) add a splash of water or dry vermouth and stir/scrape to deglaze any brown bits sticking to the bottom. This will cool down the pan a bit, so you can leave it to bubble for a minute.

If you happen to be using frozen cooked chicken, you can do what I did and put it in a container of hot tap water to quickly defrost. Then prep your chicken by picking it off the bones, discarding skin and fat, and shredding the meat with your hands. Really get in there so you don't miss any bits and pieces stuck in between the joints. I used most of one chicken leg/thigh combination for two servings of soup; you can use as much as you like.

Add the chicken to the pan. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and a bit of mustard powder; stir to mix. Then add about two cups of vegetable (or hey! maybe you have chicken!) broth. Mine was frozen, so I just threw the whole chunk into the pot and let it defrost in the heat.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes, or as long as it takes to reduce the soup to your preferred texture. I covered my pan to start, but cracked the lid for the simmer, since I wanted to let some liquid evaporate off. This worked admirably. By the end of cooking, you should be left with a beautiful golden-brown broth full of mushrooms and chicken. Lovely.

Now for the finishing touches. First, turn the heat down to low. Add a chunk of cream cheese to the pot and stir to distribute. The cream cheese may look a bit grainy at first, but as it heats, it'll melt right in. This won't thicken the broth much at all, but it'll definitely make it more creamy and delicious. Taste for seasonings, and you are done.

Serve your soup with cracked black pepper and chopped herbs on top. I had cilantro, which seems a little odd in retrospect, but was very tasty at the time. Parsley or chives would also work well.

Toast is also an excellent plan.


Jes said...

I love that cream cheese trick! Would have never thought of it. I have chicken stock I'm thinking of using this week, just need to figure out inspiration. Hmm. That soup looks rockin' though!

Eileen said...

Hmm indeed. Well, you could always make an impressive risotto--maybe using some of the new asparagus or peas with lemon zest?

(I bet the cream cheese trick would even work in risotto, too! I mean, as long as you aren't serving it to any risotto purists.)