Chicken

Chicken Noodle Soup

Posted on 08/28/2011. Filed under: Chicken, Life, Pasta, Soup |

Have y’all heard or experienced the crazy weather this week here in Central Virginia? Good lord we began with an EARTHQUAKE and ended it with Hurricane Irene! Shit is crazy here y’all! And I’ve been dealing with the summer cold that is going around, which proves my theory that work is bad for your health.  So because I’d been sick all week, I’ve been craving chicken noodle soup like crazy. Another con about work: it interrupts my cooking.

I finally got the chance today to make the soup I’ve been wanting for a week now, and my cold is waning…right now I’m at the annoying lingering cough stage. Mom had gone to the store and picked up the celery I needed, I had half a bag of baby carrots left in my fridge (speaking of, I’ve often wondered how carrots could have such a long life if kept cold…is it because it’s a root vegetable? Dunno), I still had a couple of white onions hangin’ around, as well as the stock and chicken breasts in my well-stocked freezer.

Speaking of my freezer, if we lost power for a significant amount of time, sooooo much food would be wasted, and I would cry like a woman in the middle of her period watching a tear-jerker marathon on Lifetime. So knock on wood, the only power outages so far during this storm have lasted maybe three minutes long. Others in Richmond, many of my friends, have lost power. Fortunately they’re all stocked up on beer. But the downside to this storm is that Shadow is going crazy. He’s an outdoor cat and is refusing the litter box, and it wandering around my house and yelling at my mom and I. Our response? “Dammit cat, can’t you tell there’s a HURRICANE OUTSIDE?!?!”

Watching the storm from the best seat in the house

Getting back to the soup…I started out by chopping one white onion in a medium dice. I then tossed it in a cold stock pot that had been drizzled with a tablespoon or so of Trader Joe’s Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a three-finger pinch of Kosher salt. I let the pot hang out cold while my frozen four cups of homemade chicken stock melted in a saucepan on the burner next to it.

Then I sliced eight stalks of celery into medium slices, and sliced most of the bag of carrots. I wanted to keep the veggies around the same size for even cooking, and I guess I sliced a cup of each. Then I cut three chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.

When the stock was melted, I turned on the stockpot and let the onion cook until transluscent-ish. Yes, that’s a word. Then I added the celery and carrot to the pot, stirred it up, and cooked the veggies for a couple of minutes. Then I poured the stock in, as well as an additional 10 cups or so of water. The veggies will add flavor to the water, and since I was going to cook the chicken in the broth, it was going to add flavor as well. I then herbed it up (no, not “herbs,” just herbs, you stoners!) with dried thyme and dill, a few bay leaves, garlic powder and onion powder, a few dashes of hot sauce, white pepper and a couple more pinches of salt, seasoning to taste. Season your soup however you like. If you’re a sage freak, have at it. Like a kick to your soup? Add crushed red pepper. Go nuts, let your freaky soup flag fly.

So anyway, after the seasonings get added, and the veg and liquids, I brought the soup to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and let the veg cook for about 30 minutes. Then I added the cut chicken to the pot, stirred it up, and let it cook for 10 more minutes, and then I added dried wide egg noodles to the pot, stirred it up, let it cook for an additional 12 minutes. You can use whatever noodles you want, if you want to add noodles. If I had a matzo ball recipe, I’d probably made Penicillin Soup like at The Jewish Mother in Virginia Beach (but better, their soup’s gone downhill, whereas mine is bangin’). But if you add spaghetti, be sure to break up the pasta before adding it to the pot, unless you wanna slurp noodles.

The soup was warm and comforting, like a soft blanket by the fireplace on a cold rainy night. The veggies were cooked to perfection, were not mushy and overcooked. The chicken was juicy and firm, not chewy, and the pasta was al dente.  It makes a TON of soup: 14 cups of leftovers plus two soup bowls full. So good, all natural, filling, and plenty left over to either share or hoard in your freezer like I did.

Large stockpot of homemade chicken noodle soup

Perfect dinner on a rainy night..healthy too!

…The next day…

I started this blog during Hurricane Irene. I was fortunate enough to have power until about 9:30pm the night of Saturday, August 27, when I was in the middle of typing the last sentence of the last paragraph. I am happy to report my townhouse did not have any damage, the only bad things that happened were no power throughout the night (but fortunately it wasn’t that hot and slept comfortably), arguing with Shadow as to why he could not go outside, and the cover blew off my grill (but landed safely behind it, caught between the side fence and the grill, and it is currently drying out in the sunshine). When I went to bed last night I was very scared about the food in my large 6′ freezer out in the garage as well as the food in my well-stocked fridge, and nearly cried at the thought of throwing everything (including the soup I’d just made) out. Also, it dawned on me that I do not own a French Press coffeemaker nor do I own either ground coffee or a coffee grinder (because we own a Cuisinart Grind & Brew), and might have to drink tea instead if I boil water on the grill. Fortunately, our power was restored around 10:00 this morning, I had fresh coffee and pancakes with bacon for breakfast in my own home, and am now able to wash linens. I have offered my friends without power use of my facilities if they need them.

How he recovers from a hurricane, by napping on a cooler in the shade next to my mint

Anyway, I hope everyone is safe and has an enjoyable week, and hopefully no more crazy-ass weather.

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

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Jambalaya

Posted on 05/26/2010. Filed under: Chicken, Dinner, Grains, Pork, Seafood |

In less than seven weeks, I will be in New Orleans.  I can not freaking wait for this trip for several reasons, in no particular order: 1. It’s NEW ORLEANS for a week, my absolute most favorite city that I have been to so far in my life; 2. I won’t be in Richmond for a week, which means I won’t be at work, always a good thing; 3. I see my boyfriend for the first time since March; 4. All I will be doing is grocery shopping and cooking, which is perfect.  When I decided to go on the trip, I thought, “Why not make dishes that are native to Nawlins while we’re there?”  Turns out, the church folks that are going on the trip as well are already expecting cajun cuisine.  One of the guys has a best friend that lives there and I guess one night we will be having a Gumbo Throwdown (his will be seafood, mine will be andouille & chicken like the Gumbo I made for this blog). 

But one of the dishes I was really nervous about making was Jambalaya, mainly because it has rice in it as a main ingredient and I was convinced rice and I weren’t ever going to be BFF’s.  I poked around Tastespotting and found this guy’s recipe, which looked pretty spot-on as well as pretty easy.  Andouille was purchased at my stand-by, Whole Foods, as well as the shrimp (which after de-veining looked terrible, but cooked beautifully).  I’d debated on using shrimp because of the cost (thanks, BP, for not only destroying the environment but also making seafood costs skyrocket), but thought why not and went balls to the wall with the meats.  Mom purchased the chicken, and to make the dish more flavorful, I decided to use thighs instead of breasts.

De-boning chicken thighs is a bitch.  I said it, and I’ll repeat it: de-boning chicken thighs is a bitch.  Even with brand-new Henckels paring knives.  But I did it.  Next time, I’m using chicken breasts to save time and effort.  I started prepping the dish by de-boning four chicken thighs, removing the skin, cut the meat into cubes, reserving the bones and cartiledge for stock, skin to someday coat in seasoned flour and fry on its own.  Everyone likes the crispy fried chicken skin right?  Anyway, after the thighs were done, I sliced three andouille sausage links into quarter-inch slices while the meat was still a little frozen (I’d bought the sausages on Sunday and wanted them to be frozen for easier slicing), and peeled and deveined a pound of shrimp.  An hour after prepping meats, I had this:

Triumvirate of Meat: Shrimp, Andouille, Chicken

Then I prepped the veggies, which Emeril refers to as The Holy Trinity: green pepper, onion and celery.  I had half a leftover green pepper as well as a whole one, so I sliced them both and cut the slices into a medium dice.  I then cut one medium sweet onion (Mom gets the sweet onions, but I’m sure a white one would work just as well) into a medium dice, and three ribs of celery to a medium dice.  I used the author’s recipe as a guide as far as what ingredients and how much as far as the rice, tomatoes and stock were concerned, but I just went with the flow with pretty much everything else.  I thought one rib of celery wasn’t enough in ratio of the pepper and the onion, and I figured more celery wouldn’t hurt.  It sure didn’t.  After The Holy Trinity was prepped, I finely minced four cloves of garlic, measured my rice and stock, and opened the can of plain diced tomatoes.  My mise en place was set.

I love a recipe that starts with cooking pork in pork fat, this time being andouille cooked in bacon fat.  And yes, I am one of those southern cooks that reserves bacon fat and drippings after every batch cooked.  However, I don’t keep the can of fat on the stove like your MeeMa did*, I keep it in a plastic Gladware thing in the fridge, and I’d say it’s at least a pound of solid, delicious fat.  Makes awesome scrambled eggs.  Anyway, I melted bacon fat in my cast iron Dutch oven (stop giggling, kids, I get the double entendre), and cooked the sausage until brown, then removing and setting aside on a paper-lined plate to absorb some fat.  Then I added the chicken to the hot fat, browning it until done and then removed and set aside.  I added a little more fat to the pot and added the Trinity, and cooked the veggies until just soft, about five minutes, stirring every now and then to make sure everyone gets cooked.  When the veggies were done, I added the andouille and chicken back to the pot, along with a cup of rice, two cups of homemade chicken stock (which I’d made with crushed red pepper, so the stock already had a kick), the can of diced tomatoes with the juice, the garlic, a healthy pinch of Kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, three bay leaves, a few sprigs’ worth of fresh thyme leaves, and the cayenne.  This, I eyeballed.  I didn’t measure, I added just enough that would bring the heat.  I stirred it all up, put the lid on it, let it come to a boil.  I turned the heat down to a simmer when the pot was at the boiling point, and stirred the pot every few minutes to prevent burning and sticking.   

It smelled amazing.  I mean it was smelling good before with the pork cooked in pork fat and all, but with the veggies and the meat and everything….just yum.  I was really psyched about how the jambalaya was turning out at this point, but still nervous about that fickle bitch known as rice.  I really just didn’t want this whole beautiful pot of food to be ruined by undercooked rice.  So I was really protective of the Dutch oven and its contents as the process was coming along. 

Almost-done Jambalaya

After the rice had cooked about 25 minutes, I added the shrimp, stirred them in, and covered the pot.  I let the shrimp cook for about 10 minutes while Matt & Dan took a smoke break.  When they came back in, the Jamabalaya was done. 

Beautiful, delicious Jambalaya

 Earlier in the day, I’d stopped by a local Brazilian bakery to get some French bread.  I know that sounds weird, but the bakery has little signs on the side of the road by the Walmart that I frequent, so I thought why not give them a try.  Three mini-loaves for $1.  Can’t beat the price, and the bread was crusty on the outside and nice and chewy in the middle.  I pray I never develop Celiac Disease.  We grabbed bowls and hepled ourselves to Jambalaya, and I put Tobasco and cayenne on the table just in case someone wanted it spicier.  We all dug in and it was amazing.  This Jambalaya was really effing good.  Hot, spicy, meaty, delicious.  The shrimp was plump and juicy, veggies were tender, the sausage and chicken were just divine.  Matt made several approving “Mmmm” sounds.  Dan added Tobasco for more heat, but said the jambalaya was really good on its own as well.  I have a pretty wimpy palate, so it was almost a little too hot, but delicious nonetheless.  Just meant I drank my sweet tea quicker.  Mom said that it was wonderful, and this is a woman that bought a bowl off the side of the street IN NEW ORLEANS.  But it was all agreed that this was my best dish yet.  The best part?  THE RICE WAS COOKED PERFECTLY!!!!  I have redeemed myself with the Rice Gods!  Woo hoo!

The good news is that one pot could easily feed six, maybe seven people.  I figure if I triple the recipe, there will be enough for a team of 17.  Also, with the success of this dish, I pretty much have every night’s dinner planned for the trip.  I’m just really relieved this dish turned out well, and it actually exceeded my expectations. 

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

*Doesn’t every southerner have a MeeMa that reserved bacon drippings?  A friend of mine once asked me if my grandmother (mine was called MaMa [pronounced “maw-maw”]) kept a can of fat on the stove for cooking purposes.  Mine kept her can of fat in the fridge, my mom kept the can of bacon fat in the fridge, and I keep my Gladware thingy of bacon fat in the fridge.  I don’t think I could trust room-temp bacon fat that’d been left out for an extended period of time.

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