Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Chocolate-Lover's Conscience

Approx Time: 45 minutes-1 hour. Serves 4 people maybe with leftovers, unless you're all big eaters.


  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into approx 1" chunks

  • 4 cups chicken broth (I make mine with Penzey's chicken soup base...feel free to use your favorite bouillon or canned version...just read the labels for MSG content--yuck!)

  • 2-4 whole carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4-1/2" thick discs (If you're in a hurry, cut them smaller so they cook faster. Not a fan of baby carrots for soup..they still need chopping anyway)

  • 2 stalks celery, cleaned and cut into 1/4-1/2" pieces. (Same comment about speed vs size)

  • 1 small-medium onion, chopped to about 1/2-1" pieces (I usually have yellow on hand, use what you like)

  • 1-2 bay leaves (2 if yours are small or brown or you don't remember when you bought them)

  • Marjoram

  • Basil

  • Rosemary

  • 1 cup dry pasta noodles--any shape, any type (no-yolk egg noodles are fine, whole-grain ones are fine...heck, broken up lasagne noodles are fine)

  • Salt and Pepper, to taste.

Heat 1-2 tbsp oil over medium to medium-high heat in the bottom of a large soup pot until shimmering--mine holds 6 quarts and has a wide bottom. Add chicken, and brown on all sides. Do not stir-fry or move the meat around a lot. Let each piece get a nice brown crust before turning it over. It tastes better that way, I swear.

If your pan has a wide enough bottom that you can still see under all your browned chicken, then leave the chicken in the pan for the next step. Otherwise, remove it to a plate or bowl and cover it for the moment. If your pan seems dry, add another tbsp of olive oil and heat to shimmering. Add about half of your cut-up veggies (some of all 3). Saute in oil until the veggies start to brown around the edges. In this case, move the food around a bit as it's cooking.

Ignore false cleanup promises of nonstick pans--you want the food to stick to the bottom of the pan here--it's called fond and it will boost your flavor (and will come right off when you add the liquid).

Add the chicken back to the pan, along with any juice from the bowl (that's good flavor). Toss in the rest of the cut veggies and cover with the chicken broth. Using a spoon or spatula, scrape all of the browned bits (the fond!) around the bottom of the pan. This is flavor, and makes cleanup later nice and quick. Add the bay leaves, a good sprinkle (maybe 1-3 tsp) of each of the other herbs. Cover and simmer until the veggies are tender--about 20-30 minutes or so. Reduce the heat if it starts to bubble over.

Add the dry pasta and re-cover. Cook until pasta is done (usually 8-12 minutes--check the box). If your soup looks a little too chunky before adding the pasta, add an extra cup or two of water, as it will suck up liquid as it cooks.

Taste and add salt and pepper if needed (this depends heavily on your broth choice!). Remove and discard bay leaves if you find them.

Leftovers keep well for a couple of days in the fridge, or longer in the freezer. I like to keep them in single-serve containers for easy lunches.

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