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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Please, Sir, I want some more!

Yep, soup again. Chicken this time. I roasted a chicken this past weekend. I only buy chickens when they are on sale and this one was 69 cents a pound. Gone are the days when the Jewel had them for 29 cents or even less - a 3 or 4 pound chicken could cost less than a dollar! Of course they were those scrawny "fryers" but they were still good, and just the right size for two!

This chicken was a "roaster" with a fat breast and thighs, quite plump and just itching to make us happy. I like to cut the chicken down the backbone, spread it out and flatten it by pressing on the breast bone. Tuck the wings up and around and roast it that way. Some recipes call this butterflying, others call it spatchcocking. I don't care what you call it, I do it cuz it's easy and cuz the whole chicken cooks evenly without the breast meat drying out AND the entire thing ends up with crisp, crackly skin all over!

I cut up carrots, onion, celery and potatoes into chunks and scatter them in the roasting pan, then lay the seasoned chicken over them, skin side up. Season with salt and pepper, seasoned salt or your favorite rub. I kind of nudge the veggies back under the chicken so they'll cook through. Be sure to leave some peeking out - they'll get deliciously browned and caramelized.

The neck, giblets and extra bits go into a small pan of water to simmer. Halfway through the cooking time I use this broth to start basting the bird to keep it moist and help it brown evenly. I cook it at 400 to 450 f for about an hour or so. It's done when the leg moves freely or when the juices run clear or when a thermometer registers - I don't know, check your cookbook. Let it rest a few minutes before carving and serve with some of the pan juices and the veg.

As Bill said, "that was absolutely delicious".

Now comes the free food. When the chicken is cool remove all the meat from the bones. Set it aside for chicken salad, pot pie, chicken and dumplings or what have you. Also set aside the leftover veg. Take all the bones and any bits of fat, skin, or anything the cat didn't steal and put it in a sauce pan. Rinse the roasting pan several times with water to remove all the baked on goodness and pour that into the pot with the bones. Scrape up any burned bits and get them in there too. You might also want to add the trimmings from the carrots and onions and anything left from simmering the giblets earlier. A couple of bay leaves and peppercorns would not be out of place.

Bring this to a simmer and let it go for a couple hours while you do the dishes, snack on chicken bits and make sandwiches for lunch the next day. When the broth is good and rich, turn it off and let it cool a bit. Remove and discard the bones and strain the broth through a sieve. I just pile all the bones and stuff in a sieve and pour the broth through, letting it drain completely. When this has cooled a bit more pour it into tall narrow containers (the ones that large size won ton soup come in are just right). Put in the fridge. The fat rises to the top and you can scrape it off to discard or use next time you make chopped liver.

Turn this into soup by dicing and browning some onion, carrot, celery and garlic in olive oil. Add the de-fatted stock and bring to a simmer. Taste and add some chicken bullion, if necessary, or thin with a little water or extra canned chicken broth.

Now you get to add whatever you like. Barley, noodles, orzo or rice are all good. Some of the leftover chicken is excellent. Add any other vegetables you desire such as peas, green beans or corn. Season with herbs, spices, a splash of wine, beer or lemon juice to perk it up. Add some chopped spinach, Swiss chard, kale or other greens at the end and let them get tender. When it's hot and the pasta has cooked through it's ready to serve.

If you have been saving your leftover vegetables in the freezer, this is practically free food. And remember, soup loves you.

Quotable Quotes; In the category You Said A Mouthful!

"Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don't catch steak hanging around when you're poor and sick, do you?" Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

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