When I was starting to really believe that summer would never end, winter came to Oregon all at once. For days it has been rain, rain, rain with only a few cracks in the clouds right before sunset. If the forecast is to be believed, it’ll be nothing but rain, rain, rain for another week or more.
Just in case I had any doubt that winter was really here, my husband came down with a cold that has refused to go away. Until today, he tried to tough it out with cough drops, but he finally gave up and stayed home. When he finally got out of bed at around noon today, I offered to make him chicken soup.
Chicken soup is a cold season classic, but I didn’t grow up on it. My mother preferred to make us a simple green-stuff free stracciatella that we called egg drop soup: chicken broth, eggs, parmesan cheese, and whatever tiny pasta we happened to have on hand (usually ditalini, orzo, or pastina).
Because it’s what I grew up on, I still prefer egg drop soup when I’m sick, but my husband isn’t a big fan of egg bits in hot water, so over the past ten years I’ve been teaching myself how to make chicken soup from scratch, one illness at a time.
Though it’s still not native comfort food for me, I’ll admit that there’s something inherently comforting in chicken soup, but when I make it I’m on a mission to get my husband feeling better as quickly as possible. I try to pack in as many health-boosting additives as I can without compromising the taste or forcing myself to stand over the stove for hours. It’s a tall order, but after ten years of picking at it, I’m starting to make strides.
This morning I was feeling extra lazy–and irritable when I noticed that the butcher had given me bone-in chicken breasts that were about a pound apiece, and I realized that poaching the chicken like I usually do was completely impractical. I hated the idea of waiting an hour just to start making the soup, but I had no choice. I thawed one of the monster breasts, salted it, and roasted it in the oven at 350 for an hour while I chopped an onion, three carrots, and two ribs of celery. Usually, I skimp on vegetables because my husband doesn’t like them and I’m busy trying to get all of the prep work done while the chicken poaches, but this time I took my time and ended up with a much bigger pile than usual.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I bet if I cook them down enough, he won’t notice they’re there.”
So, for about half an hour, I allowed the vegetables to cook in a cast iron pot until the onions and carrots caramelized. Remembering that garlic is a super food, I threw a smashed clove in at the last minute for good measure.
When the chicken came out of the oven, and I knew immediately that I would never go back to poaching again. It’s true that poaching makes a broth that can be added to the soup instead of store-bought stuff or water, but roasting the chicken made a beautiful fond that I deglazed with white wine and added to the vegetables after the diced up chicken and six cups of water. Adding the chicken juices dissolved in wine turned the soup such a rich color brown color that it looked like it’d simmered for hours.
Then I added a whole bunch of turmeric and a small handful of dried rosemary and thyme. I’ve been putting these herbs in everything lately. There’s just something about the combination that makes everything taste more hearty.
While the soup simmered, the rain let up a little bit, so I ducked outside to pick a few sprigs of parsley in the garden, and when I came inside the smell was tortuous. A quick taste after half an hour of simmering confirmed what my nose had already told me: roasted chicken soup is delicious. I’m fairly sure I’ll never poach chicken for chicken soup again.