Walking up the stairs to my kitchen yesterday, the aromas wafting downward from the soup pot filled me with a sudden “all’s right with the world” feeling. How does chicken soup do that?
We’d had a large and spicy Indian lunch, and I wanted a light supper, light but not bland. Full of good things but not too filling. Something easy on the waistline and the blood sugar, but nothing insipid. Something warm and warming for a drizzly evening in January. Chicken and vegetable soup popped right into my mind, although as we all know it can be a supremely boring dish. I vowed to make one that wasn’t, and this one isn’t. It’s not full of flavor fireworks or exotic ingredients, but it’s really, really good.
The stock’s the thing. I always have a gallon ziplock bag of chicken bones in the freezer, and anytime we eat any sort of chicken I stuff the bones into the bag until it’s full, then I make stock. But I realize that a bag of bones is not for everyone, so you are allowed to cheat! And here’s how.
Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Meyer Lemon
1 rotisserie chicken
1 quart chicken broth, homemade or bought
1 large leek
2 stalks celery, with leaves
1 large bulb fennel, with fronds
1 small zucchini
6 oz green beans
8 shiitake mushrooms
8 new or fingerling potatoes
2 T butter
1 Meyer lemon
salt and pepper
water as needed
Start by pulling all of the meat off the rotisserie chicken. Do this with your fingers – it’s easier if the chicken is a bit warm. Put the meat in a bowl and refrigerate. Put all the chicken bones and part of the chicken skin in a 6 quart stockpot with the chicken broth, the green portion of the leek, the celery, the shiitake stems, and the fennel stalks and fronds. There’s no need to chop up these vegetables, jut set them atop the bones and add water to the pot until the bones are covered and the vegetables float. Cover the pot, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, and simmer for about 2 hours. You can definitely let it go longer, but 2 hours is the minimum here. Have a peek from time to time and add a little water if necessary to keep the bones covered.
While the broth is simmering, dice the white and light green portion of the leek, dice the fennel bulb, and dice the zucchini. Trim the green beans and cut them into small bite-sized pieces. Cut up the meat from at least half the chicken, more if you wish, into small bite-sized pieces. Slice the shiitake caps.
When the broth is done simmering pour it through a fine strainer into a large bowl, then return the strained broth to the stockpot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the stock to a boil.
Drop in the little potatoes, reduce the heat to medium, and boil gently for 10 minutes. Add the shiitake slices, green beans, and diced leek, fennel, and zucchini, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are just tender. Add the cut up chicken and simmer until heated through, allowing the flavors to blend but avoiding overcooking the chicken. Just before serving add the butter and swirl until it melts. Squeeze in the juice of the Meyer lemon. Taste again for salt and pepper and serve.