Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Going Freezer Shopping" -- Green Chicken Soup

I was overdue for making a soup (a staple here at the Blog Appetits) and had agreed to limit my forays to the market for a while to “eat down” the pantry and freezer to make some room for any new purchases later. (Whenever I source a recipe this way I refer to it as “going freezer shopping,” hence the first part of the post’s title.)

While shuffling the contents of my freezer looking for inspiration I came across a package of boneless chicken breast tenders, a bag of Trader Joe’s Organic Greens with Envy and some frozen chicken stock (maybe a quart or so?). The frozen vegetable mix featured shelled edamame, spinach, green beans, broccoli florets and asparagus tips.

It made up into a light but full-flavored homey chicken vegetable soup. The smell of the simmering chicken soup was warming and cheery on a rainy winter day and made me feel well taken care of and loved. The soup itself looked bright and fresh and reminded me that spring would soon be here. (An aside, it might be a nice non-traditional "green" dish for St. Patrick's Day if you are looking for something other than corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew or green bagels.)

You could substitute canned or boxed chicken stock if that’s what you have hiding in your pantry, but homemade always packs a taste punch. Substitute whatever fresh or frozen chopped green vegetables you have on hand, but be sure to include something green and leafy, something green and a bit crunchy, and perhaps fresh or frozen shelled edamame or canned or frozen lima beans. There is little added fat and lots of nutrients in the vegetables, so it is a good-for-you-soup, too.

Other cuts of chicken on or off the bone will work well, too. You could skip the chicken entirely, but poaching the poultry in the soup adds of depth to the flavor even if your stock is not homemade.

Green Chicken Soup

All amounts approximate
Serves 4

Oil spray or 1 tsp oil (I used grapeseed)
1 small or ½ large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces frozen or fresh chopped green vegetables
1 quart chicken stock
¾ to 1 pound (or more) boneless chicken breasts or breast tenders (frozen or fresh) OR other chicken on or off the bone
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Spray the bottom of a large pot or add 1 teaspoon oil. Heat over medium high flame. Add onion and sauté until just softened. Add minced garlic and sauté until beginning to brown. Add frozen or fresh vegetables and sauté until vegetables are beginning to defrost (if frozen) or just beginning to soften (if fresh). Add chicken stock. Stir all ingredients well, making sure to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Heat soup until simmering. Add chicken pieces (no need to defrost frozen boneless chicken) and poach in broth until just cooked through. (You may need to adjust heat to keep from boiling. Timing will depend on size, thickness, bone in or out, frozen or not, so keep you’ll need to watch. Do not overcook.) Remove chicken from the pot and cut or shred into bite size pieces. (If you’ve used chicken with skin and bones, remove those from meat, cut or shred the meat.) Add meat back to pot. Heat soup through, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

You’ll be amazed at the good, clean taste and depth this simple soup has (especially if you’ve used a quality or homemade chicken stock). If you want more spice, you can certainly add hot sauce or other seasonings either to the whole pot or your bowl. You might also try adding a teaspoon or two of fresh, minced ginger when you add the garlic for a more Asian-flavored soup.
I ate mine straight. Noah added a spoonful of shredded Parmesan cheese and stirred it through. Gary added some leftover cooked pasta to his bowl first then ladled in the hot soup. If your stock was not very rich, you could stir in a dash of a good quality olive oil to your serving to pump up the flavor a bit. Try lemon oil for a refreshing taste.

Variation: Make it with good quality vegetable stock and tofu and you can have a Green Greens Soup.

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