Chicken soup….and more!

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Chicken or Turkey Stock 

One of my favorite meals to make during the cold winter months is either turkey or chicken soup. It starts with a flavorful stock, rich with nutrients.  The key to a tasty and nutritious stock is using chicken or turkey bones and lots of healthy vegetables. Whenever I roast a chicken I save the carcass and the icky stuff wrapped up inside of it. I remove the neck and gizzards from their wrapping and place them in a freezer bag. It’s easier to store and then put them in the pot later. The marrow in the bones is supposed to be very nutritious.  Cooking the bones for a long time draws nutrients out of the bones and the marrow. You can use uncooked chicken pieces instead of the carcass, as long as it has bones. It doesn’t make a difference. You just have to use what you have in the time you have. If you do it right, the broth should be gelatinous after it has cooled.  Don’t worry if it’s not gelatinous, it will still be healthy and tasty! You made it with love!

Ingredients:

5 lbs. of turkey or chicken (cooked carcass or chicken parts)

2 medium carrots, chopped into 2 inches pieces

2 celery stalks, chopped into 2 inch pieces

3 medium or 2 large onions, outer skin peeled and cut into quarters

1 parsnip, chopped into 2 inch pieces

2 garlic cloves, left whole and unpeeled

handful of fresh parsley

4  peppercorns

1 tbsp. of kosher salt

2 Bay leaves

I use a large pot to cook the ingredients, and then another to drain the broth into when it’s done. If you don’t have two large pots, you can ladle into smaller bowls or containers through a colander or strainer. I sometimes use cheesecloth in my colander to strain out all the ingredients, leaving me with pure stock.

Place all of the ingredients into your pot. Pour enough cold water into the pan to ALMOST cover all the vegetables and chicken. I take off only the loose outer skin on the onions and leave the rest on. I think it brings a beautiful color to the stock.  Bring the pot to a boil. Cover the pot and lower the heat to a simmer. Let it cook for at least 1 hour, preferable 1 ½ or more.  Your home will smell wonderful.

Once the stock has cooked, I let it sit off the hot burner for a ½ hour.  Now it’s time to start the cooling off process. I like pull out the carcass and any large vegetable pieces and put them in a bowl or on a cookie sheet. There’s less splash when your strain the stock into the colander if all the big pieces are out.  Once you have strained it into another large pot, let it sit for about an hour. You never want to put something hot in your refrigerator. It will lower the temperature of the refrigerator.  I usually pour it through a mesh strainer to get all the bits out into a big pot or container and then after it’s cooled a bit, transfer to another container. I like to freeze the stock in ice cube trays and small containers, then pop into a plastic bag and store them in the freezer. If you ever need some chicken stock for a recipe, you can just pop out some cubes.  When I store the stock in my refrigerator, I skim the fat off the top before I use it.  It will take about 8 hours for the fat to rise to the top and the stock to become gelatinous.  I love to heat up the stock and add cooked pasta like tubetti  or acini de pepe and top it off with freshly grated parmesan. If there is any chicken or turkey left on the bones, I store it in a separate container and then add to my soup for a meal in a bowl.  Chicken or turkey stock is very easy to make. It just takes time. Try it this weekend!

Italian Wedding Soup

Now that you have the chicken soup made, you can really make a special meal. I adapted an Ina Garten Italian Wedding Soup recipe a few years ago that my family loves. It’s simple and delicious. You have to first make chicken meatballs and then you cook small pasta and spinach in the soup with the meatballs. It really is easy. The trick is to do things in steps. One day you make the soup, the next day you make the meatballs.

The meatballs consist of ground chicken and Italian chicken sausage….let’s make some meatballs!

1 lb. ground chicken

1 lb. ground Italian chicken sausage

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

3 cloves of minced or crush garlic

3 tbsp. minced parsley

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

splash of milk

1 egg, beaten (optional)

salt and pepper

1 cup of small pasta like Ditalini

1 bag (10 ounces) of fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the chicken sausage from the casings and mix it with the ground turkey. Add the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, cheese, milk, salt and pepper and mix them together. If you’d like you can add a beaten egg. Makes them a little lighter. This mixture is very wet. The meatballs will stick to your hands, but that’s okay. On a parchment lined sheet, place your meatballs. Try to make them as small as you can.  Don’t worry if they are on the large size, I usually cut them in half or quarters before I put them in the soup. Hey, this is soup, don’t sweat it. Cook the meatballs for about 30 minutes. I turned them about halfway so then brown evenly. These meatballs freeze really well too!

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Heat about 1/2 of the chicken stock in a pan, to a simmer. Add about a cup of small pasta, like Ditalini, to the simmering soup. Let it cook for 10 minutes. It will absorb some of the broth. After you make it a couple of times you will know the soup/pasta ratio. I like having a lot of pasta, but you need to have enough broth since the pasta absorbs some of the chicken stock. Add the meatballs and the chopped spinach into the broth. Let this simmer for about 5 minutes.  I like to sprinkle the soup with parmesan when I serve it. Now this is a meal!

Enjoy!

 

 

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