Down’n’Dirty Chicken Soup
When you plan for meals, you can fix a quick chicken soup in hardly any time, on a day you need a nice warm bowl of comfort.
The other day, Rich and I had to unexpectedly deal with some family business – which required running around Manhattan all morning in a heavy, chilly rain. (Yes, the season has changed…)
On the last bus home, I said to him “We’re going to get home right at lunchtime, and I don’t want salad! I think I’m going to throw together a down and dirty chicken soup for lunch.” And indeed I did – and it was good. And eating it, I noticed that it was just the sort of meal I want you to be able to prepare from the food I suggest you stock your pantry and freezer with. (Since that’s what I did…)
So I made a quick chicken soup again the next day (with one or two changes I’ll explain) to note measurements and take pictures… Planning For Meals in action. And understand – this can be done with completely home cooked food, or partially (or even entirely) store bought prepared foods. It will still taste better than anything out of a can. (And if anyone in your family cannot eat some foods, as I cannot, you can make this meet their needs.)
I routinely buy chicken legs, and much of the time I just throw them into the slow cooker for seven to eight hours. (They give out their own broth.) Then I bone them (or, well, sometimes Rich bones them…) and toss the bones back in, cover with water, add some salt, and let it run overnight and well into the next day. (Even another night, sometimes.) This gives me cooked chicken to use in all sorts of things, and stock (currently trendily called Bone Broth – but I made it long before it was a Thing.)
You don’t have to do that, though… When time and energy are even tighter, I do the same with just thighs, which are easier to bone. I get less broth, but hey, that’s OK. You can absolutely do it with boneless, skinless thighs – and that’s really what I suggest for someone starting out. Or a rotisserie chicken (though you still have to bone that thing – boneless thighs are easier.) Or roast or bake your own. Or you know – I always have canned chicken to use in a pinch… One way or another, I try to have cooked chicken in the house. (Last night I braised half a dozen thighs. We ate two, the rest are ready to use.)
Your broth really matters in this recipe. Usually it will pick up flavor from the meat and vegetables simmering in it, but here, most is already cooked and nothing simmers long enough. The first time around, I had a quart of concentrated stock I’d made, so diluted that with water to give me six cups and we were fine. The second time, I only had a pint, so I added a can of broth from the pantry,and a little more water. And you can use all packaged broth if that makes more sense for you. (If you need to avoid gluten read labels – some broth has gluten added! One reason I generally make my own…)
Now – vegetables. If you don’t want (or aren’t able, for one reason or another) to cook any of this in advance, aromatics are where you may run into trouble… I make my own mirepoix, but I’ve never seen that sold in a store. My local grocery, though, does sell fresh sofrito in Produce – in this neighborhood, the Puerto Rican version. If you can get that, it’s an option, for a different flavor. Or saute an onion, and perhaps add chopped garlic, or ginger… they come pre-chopped or pureed in jars. With or without the onion, use them, add a splash of gluten free soy sauce, and you just took this soup in yet another delicious direction.
I really suggest making your own aromatics blends and freezing them – mirepoix, any of the many versions of sofrito, the Cajun Holy Trinity… Your choice of aromatic determines the final flavor. If you have sauteed onion or leeks in the freezer, that works, too.
Then I did use fresh vegetables because it was the end of September and I can barely close the crisper drawer… I used a cooking pepper and a zucchini, because they’re good, only take a minute or two to wash and chop, and not much longer to cook. Another time of year, though? I would absolutely have used frozen vegetables… In fact, I did – I pulled out and chopped a green muffin. (Commercial frozen spinach or other greens are fine, here.)
And I had cooked rice. I think rice gets soggy in soup, so I put some right in the bowls and ladled boiling soup over it. You can, of course, add it to the pot, if you prefer. And again – while I use it so much that I always cook extra and usually have some on hand, I also always have a package of shelf stable cooked rice in the pantry, just in case.Or you can skip that and serve bread or crackers.
So, now that I’ve discussed options…
I got home, dropped my bag, stripped off the wet shoes and jacket (and left Rich to deal with all that) and went into the kitchen. Pulled out chicken, broth, rice, and fresh vegetables from the fridge, and put a pot on the stove to heat. The broth had chicken fat that had risen to the top, so I put a little of it in the heating pot – otherwise I’d have used olive oil. Then I pulled the zip bag of mirepoix and one green muffin out of the freezer, and dropped half a cup of mirepoix into the pan. (Usually I use a little less – this is part of the vegetable, not just the flavoring, in this dish.)
While that all heated, I washed and chopped the pepper, and added it, then the zucchini. (In too-big pieces the first day – I remembered to cut it smaller, for soup, for the photos!) Then I used a heavy knife to chop the green muffin into small bits, so they’d be easy to eat, and added them, stirred it all around a bit. Then the chicken, then the broth. (The first day – a quart of homemade, and two or so cups of water. The second, a pint of homemade, a can of broth, and half a cup of water to bring it up to six cups.) With all unseasoned homemade broth, I also added a sprinkle of seasoned salt – skipped it with the seasoned (especially salted!) commercial broth.
That all took me maybe ten minutes? It would take a less experienced cook longer, but then it would take less time if you used all pre-cooked frozen vegetables that didn’t need to be chopped… I set it to simmer, went and changed out of the rest of my (very slightly damp) business clothing, let it simmer about ten minutes, all together. Again, if all the vegetables were pre-cooked, you’d really just need to bring it to a boil – maybe simmer a minute or two. And it was ready.
This made four hearty bowls, so four servings – if you serve four people, add half a sandwich, crackers and cheese, a salad, or something else to round out the meal. We just ate the whole thing…
And it was good. Just what we needed, after a (somewhat difficult,) tiring, wet morning. Isn’t good soup the perfect comfort food? Don’t you need a bowl of quick chicken soup (that you can actually eat!) in fifteen or twenty minutes, some days? (I could have gotten it down to ten, with frozen mixed vegetables… but the fresh really did add enough interest to be worth the extra few minutes.)
Home cooking doesn’t have to be hard.
Down’n’Dirty Chicken Soup
- oil for pan
- 1/2 c mirepoix
- 1 cooking pepper diced
- 1 zucchini diced
- 1/2 c chopped cooked greens
- 8 oz. cooked chicken
- 6 c chicken broth
- Seasoning mix such as Spike or Mrs. Dash opt.
- 1 c cooked brown rice
- Heat oil in a pot. Add the mirepoix, the pepper, and the zucchini. Stir. Add the chicken, broth, and seasoning if desired.
- Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.
- Divide the rice between the soup bowls, and pour the hot soup over it. Serve at once.