Chicken Soup: Better than a Flu Shot?

chicken soupWhen you get to be my age, there is a “big” push at this time of year by pharmaceutical companies to get your FREE flu shot.  I am not sure if this is simply an Obamacare benefit or rather a promotional offer by CVS to encourage Americans to restock their medicine chests for the cold winter. Nevertheless, I continue to resist the FREEBIE on the simple premise that it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to introduce “foreign” antibodies into my body. Sheila thinks differently and has accused me of suffering from some mental disorder after escaping the siege at the Branch Dividians’ Compound in Waco, Texas.   Now that the Bird Flu (aka avian influenza) has appeared in the United Kingdom killing three mute swans in Dorset, I have decided to ingest my own personal remedy:  Chicken broth.

GourMay’s Organic Chicken Broth

Ingredients

  • Carcass of an organic chicken,
  • A carrot cut in three large pieces;
  • A stock of celery cut in three or more large pieces;
  • Half of an onion cut in a couple of large pieces,
  • A sprig of thyme,
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation (makes a 1 1/2 to 2 cups)

  • Most people can get about four servings from a roasted chicken.  For broth, simply strip the chicken meat from the carcass and break down the carcass so that it will easily fit into a large sauce pan;
  • Cover the carcass in cold water, add the carrot, celery, onion and thyme and bring to a boil;
  • Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer uncovered for about an hour or so until most of the meat is off the carcass;
  • Strain the broth through cheese cloth or a very fine wire mesh strainer and discard the carcass and veggies.

Unless you are in perfect physical condition – like “Bogey” Pinson – and drink a cup a day of organic chicken broth, you are likely to get the flu.  In that case you will need “Get Better Soup” that was featured in Gourmay in 2011.

Roast Chicken Cacciatore with Red Wine Butter

Many moons ago before I tasted “real” Italian food, I sincerely believed that Chef Boyardee epitomized Italian cooking.  In fact, some of my family members would argue that a trip to Mama Leone in New York City was as “good as it gets” when it comes to Italian cooking.  (Editor’s Note:  Diners apparently disagreed as Mama Leone closed its restaurant doors in midtown Manhattan in 1994.   I suspect that some Mafia hit-men were disappointed, but most aficionados of Italian cuisine were not).

In any event, Italian cooking in the 60s and 70s in the United States was characterized by large portions of pasta and some meat or fowl swimming in a pool of tomato sauce.    Dump a bunch of grated Parmesan cheese on it and you were off to the races.  Let’s face it,  the “good” Mama’s food was filling but not particularly tasteful.

Chicken Cacciatore

With the exception of penne all’ arribbiata, I am a leery of Italian food with too much tomato sauce.   As such, I was intrigued with this colorful recipe from the latest Food & Wine (May, 2014) which allegedly features the “best Italian dishes from Tuscany to America.”   I have no way of knowing if “Roast Chicken Cacciatore with Red Wine Butter” comes from Tuscany or not, but this is simply a delicious recipe.   While the “wine butter” is intriguing, the jarred Pappadew peppers make all the difference.  Bravo, Food and Wine!

 Roast Chicken Cacciatore with Red Wine Butter

Ingredients

  • One 3 1/2-pound chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 basil sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
  • 4 oregano sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small fennel bulb, cut into 3/4-inch wedges through the core
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup pearl onions
  • 8 jarred sweet Peppadew peppers, halved
  • 6 baby bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and chopped

Preparation

  1. Season the chicken with 2 teaspoons of salt and stuff the thyme sprigs in the cavity. Transfer the chicken to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and poke holes in the top; refrigerate overnight.
  2. In a saucepan, boil the wine over moderately high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, 7 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the tomato paste, butter and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let cool slightly.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°. Loosen the breast and thigh skin of the chicken and spread three-fourths of the red wine butter under the skin. Stuff the basil sprigs, oregano sprigs and garlic into the cavity and tie the legs with string. Rub the remaining butter over the chicken and let stand for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large, deep ovenproof skillet, toss the fennel, tomatoes, onions, both peppers and olive oil; season with salt. Set the chicken in the center of the vegetables. Pour in the stock. Roast for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 155°. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Simmer the broth over moderately high heat until slightly reduced, 3 minutes. Stir in the olives and transfer to a platter. Carve the chicken and arrange on the platter. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

SUGGESTED PAIRING
Barbera pairs easily with food, even when it’s young.
PUBLISHED MAY 2014 in Food and Wine

Chicken & Dumplings from Bon Appétit

There is one thing that Germans and Italians can agree on:  Chicken and dumplings make for a most satisfying meal.   (Note:  Actually, the only “Italians” who enjoy dumplings are from the remnants of the Habsburg Empire — South Tyrol, Trieste, Trentino, and Istria – that were ceded to Italy after World War I.  In fact, Knödel soup is still served in many homes in the region).

I have again become a huge fan of chicken now that it is possible to find farm-raised organic chickens rather than the Tyson variety which has been genetically modified and produced in factory-farms for the likes of McDonalds and KFC.   Let’s face it, chickens will eat most anything and if you put them in a decent environment where they are free to roam (but not too far!), you will have a great tasting bird and it will cut down on the tick and spider population.

 

Chicken & Dumplings from Bon Appetit

Found below is a delightful recipe from Bon Appétit for Chicken and dumplings with mushrooms.    What made this recipe stand out from previous “stew” recipes is the overabundance of lovely mushrooms which take the place of the traditional carrots, celery and potatoes.  This is a meal fit for a king.  Enjoy!

Chicken & Dumplings with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. slab bacon (Benton’s bacon please), cut into ¼” pieces
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs; about 2 lb.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ pound mixed mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic crushed
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Dumplings and Assembly

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup whole milk

Preparation

  • Crisp bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat; transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
  • Place flour in a shallow bowl. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Working in batches, cook chicken, skin side down, in same pot over medium heat until deep golden brown and crisp (do not turn), 12–15 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  • Working in 2 batches, cook mushrooms in same pot, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring occasionally, until brown, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add onion and garlic to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, 5–8 minutes.
  • Add wine to pot; simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add chicken, bacon, thyme, bay leaves, and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer, partially covered, skimming occasionally, until chicken is falling off the bone, 2–2½ hours. Add mushrooms and simmer until flavors meld, 10–15 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Dumplings and Assembly

  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, pepper, and ¾ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs and milk (batter will be slightly lumpy). Reduce heat until water is at a strong simmer. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into water; cook until dumpling are cooked through and doubled in size, about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon; add to stew just before serving.
  • DO AHEAD: Stew (without dumplings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

Clearly, this is a hearty meal and best served during the late Fall or Winter when the weather is cool.  It also makes for great leftovers, although the dumplings are not nearly as light and flavorful the next day.