The holidays are over. The decorations are packed. The adults are back at work, and the kids are back in school. We’ve settled in for the long winter slog, and I’m feeling very blue.
But hello chicken:
Can you fade my malaise away?
I want something warming, with heat and tang. Something deeply savory, yet citrusy and bright. A counterpoint, if you will, to the chilly air outside and the leaden feeling within.
I decide to slowly poach my chicken (an organic beauty from Rumbleway Farm) with copious amounts of aromatics that will give me the flavor I’m looking for. In goes the chicken, an onion and garlic; a big piece of ginger and handfuls of cilantro. Lime zest, kosher salt and plenty of peppercorns round out my mix. I add water, bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for about 50 minutes.
In no time at all, aromas of chicken, lime and cilantro warm the house. When the chicken is done, I pull it out and reduce the broth for another 20-30 minutes.
It isn’t quite the color I expected. If I’d pulled out a chicken carcass and roasted its bones, my broth would be a rich brown. Poaching the chicken has given me a clearer, golden-hued liquid. But it’s still deeply flavorful and redolent of the ingredients I’ve used.
I skin my cooled chicken and shred it. Poaching has kept it meltingly moist and has infused it with a complex flavor of ginger, garlic and citrus. I set it aside, then skim the fat from my broth. In another pan, I saute finely chopped shallots, carrots and celery; ginger, garlic and cilantro. When they’re tender, I add 8 cups of my poached chicken broth and simmer away.
All this simmering has steamed the kitchen windows. The room feels cozy and warm. I slice up a variety of fresh vegetables, boil some soba noodles, then taste my simmering soup for flavor. It needs a healthy dose of lime juice and a touch of brown sugar to give me the savory, citrusy kick I’m looking for. I pile the vegetables, chicken and noodles into a soup bowl and pour the broth over.
Best of all, I have a lot of poaching liquid left. I can freeze it … meaning a bowl of soulful soup is never far away.
Good For The Soul Chicken Soup
Rinse a 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken. Put it in a large pot with 2 medium onions, skin on and cut into fourths, 6 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, a 2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, 2 4-inch strips of lime zest, 1 cup cilantro stems, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon black peppercorns. Cover everything with cold water. (I used 6 quarts of water, but I’m blessed with an enormous stock pot. If your pot is smaller, you can always cut the chicken into pieces. You’ll need less water. Just remember to use half the amount of aromatics that I did.)
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Remove the cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the chicken until done, about 50 minutes. (If you’re poaching pieces, check them for doneness after 30 minutes.)
Remove the chicken from the liquid. Continue simmering the liquid and aromatics for 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly, then strain into another pot, discarding all solids. Skim off the surface fat. (If you have the time or inclination, you can put the poaching liquid in the refrigerator so the fat begins to congeal. This step makes skimming easier.)
Meanwhile, finely chop 1/2 cup shallots, 1/2 cup carrots and 1/4 cup celery. Film a soup pot with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add the shallots, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper and saute over medium-low heat until the shallot is translucent. Add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and 2 sliced scallions. Saute for 30 seconds.
Pour in 8 cups of the poaching liquid. (Freeze the rest.) Add the juice of 1 lime. Bring to a boil, then reduce your heat and simmer until the vegetables are done.
While the soup is simmering, chop a variety of fresh vegetables (I used red peppers, white button mushrooms, Belgian endive and avocado). Boil some soba noodles if you’d like. Place the vegetables and noodles in a soup bowl.
Taste the soup for seasoning. Squeeze in the juice of another lime and stir in 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar. Pour the soup over the fresh vegetables and noodles, and watch your winter blues fade away!