Friday, January 05, 2007

Cook it once, cook it twice: Chicken, chicken soup with rice

It got cold suddenly. About bloody time. Cold in Southern California means two things:

Put on your Uggs. Make soup.

Chicken soup with rice. Hmmm. The very thought of it hit the spot. I fancied a nice, clear broth, ever so slightly salted. Nothing more than diced carrots and some leeks or zucchini slices. And just enough rice to make it satisfying.

I didn't have a recipe for that, though. So I ventured out on my own. It was a haphazard journey. Ill-thought out. With many detours. And yet I eventually got to where I was going, with results not nearly as disastrous as I'd planned for. My kids even ate a bowl, which continues to be my definition of success, although I don't suppose it should be.

Here's more or less what I put in the soup:

two cloves garlic
Two stalks celery, chopped three green onions, chopped six cups chicken stock
two frozen chicken breast tenders
1/2 teaspoon cumin, and turmeric
1/2 cup of rice.

I couldn't find zucchini. The summer stores must be depleted. Couldn't find leeks, either, since the only place to find those here are in the "better" farmer's markets or a higher end store than the one I patronize. So I went with celery. I don't even like celery. But there had to be a green in there. I know from experience broccoli would make things go from bad to worse and smell up my kitchen in the bargain. So I went with nice, clean celery.

I like garlic. It's tasty and it's good for you. That was the thinking behind two whole cloves of garlic, which I then sauteed in, I don't know, probably three tablespoons of olive oil. That's probably way too much, but that's what happens when you daydream while you pour. Note to self: Use measuring devices; they're made for people like you. Can you saute celery? Maybe you can. Maybe I read that somewhere. So in they went, too.

Keep the heat low so you don't burn the garlic. It burns quickly, just so you know. And it will change the whole flavor on you. Add the spices after a few minutes. Stir them in and let them mingle with the vegetables.

For some reason I did all this in a separate pan than my soup pot. Why? Dunno. I wasn't thinking that far ahead.

In my actual soup pot I used "Better than bullion" soup stock mix from Trader Joe's. It comes in a jar. You use a teaspoon of paste per 8 ounces of boiling water. I used six cups of water and so sparingly used 5 teaspoons of chicken stock paste. Heaping teaspoons, too, not rounded.

Too much. The stock was much too salty. I should have used four teaspoons of stock plus two cups of water. Better yet, I should have just used pre-made chicken stock.

In this salty broth I placed two frozen chicken breast tenders. They cooked through nicely, at which point I removed them, chopped them up, and returned them to the pot.

I dumped the contents of the pan into the broth. Stupid, really, because everything, the burnt garlic and the excess olive oil included, floated on the top of the broth. I had to start chuckling at myself by that point. I really have a rare gift for crap cooking.

I almost forgot to put the rice in, too. At least I had the sense to add only half a cup. I cooked all of this for about 20 minutes, or until the rice cooked through.

I ladled two bowls of this stuff out for my kids, realizing at the last minute that I'd forgotten all about the carrots. I tucked three small, uncooked carrots into each bowl and hoped the heat would soften them up a little before my kids found them.

As an added incentive, I had a nice baguette to offer them. The kids sat down. Inspected the soup closely. Then Annie ventured in and gave her little brother the secret kid nod and the apparent thumbs up. They ate most of their bowls.


Maybe I'll get around to making those latkes on New Year's Day - when I have all the kids and no plans.

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