Thursday, May 20, 2010

Weird weather means more soothing soup

This weather has been spasmodic to say the least. One day it's hot and muggy, the next it's cold and windy. I can't stand it! And neither can my garden plants apparently, as 4 of my tomato plants up and croaked on me last week. I figure they were weaklings and don't want them anyway.

Anyway. As the title says, weird weather means more soothing soups and have I got the soothing soup for you. Matzo Ball Soup. A traditional Jewish soup, I was introduced to it about 15 years ago by the daughter (or was it the niece?) of a couple of friends. It has been a tasty ongoing experience ever since. Last year I learned how to spiffy up my soup with a most excellent lesson from my friend Carolynn. I have been completely happy doing it her way ever since and always could be completely happy if it was the only way I ever knew. However, I made one major alteration to her design by making my own chicken stock to cook everything in. Mercy Me and I DO declare, it is something I will Never Not do again.

I have always felt that making stocks and broths eluded me greatly and felt a little bad that a culinary basic was supposedly beyond my grasp. Who knew all I needed to do was look up a really good recipe?? I saw Ina Garten from the Food Network making her chicken stock and was intrigued to try it. My only beef with her chicken stock is that she uses whole chickens, cooks them to death, then tosses them, meat and all. Wasteful! Apparently a number of other people agree with me on this point as shown via the message comments left on her recipe on the FN site.  So, this is what I do/did:

I made mine in a 12qt pot which was too small but it worked out anyway and I only used about 7 or 8lbs of chicken. I used all thighs and drum sticks plus the giblets, spine and carcass of one spatchcocked chicken (use my dictionary.com link for that word). I first brined them all in a solution of 1/8 cup table salt (or 1/4 cup kosher salt) plus 2tbs sugar per quart of water for a couple hours (I feel 4 hours would be better in the future). Then I threw everything in the pot that her recipe calls for except for cutting her salt in at least half because I brined the meat. Cooked it for around an hour at a very gentle simmer, almost not noticable because of the smaller pot most likely. Removed all the chicken parts and removed whatever meat came off easily, threw all the skin, bones and bits back in the pot and cooked it more until it had reduced a good deal and looked a nice deep golden color.

After cooling I strained out the solids, mushing them a bit in a colander to get all the liquid out. Cooled it some more and chilled it over night until the fat had set up good on the top. What ever you do, DO NOT throw this fat away! Perish the thought! Cook with it! I put mine in an ice cube tray, two tablespoons to a cube, covered with plastic wrap and froze it for future use. It just so happens that matzo balls require two Tbs of oil per package, ... I wonder what is slick like oil but a much tastier alternative? HMMMM. ::wink wink::

So that's the basic jist of it. I can't give away everything, you should experiment yourself! Meanwhile, enjoy this delectable picture of the finished product. Num num.

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