“I think this is better than pizza!” shouted eight-year-old Buddy, about the hot soup and warm brown bread I’d just put in front of him. The statement caused me to involuntarily blink for a few seconds. I didn’t think I’d heard him correctly.
Winter was much colder and snowier here than we’re used to in the Mid-Atlantic states. It made me often think about mass quantities of comfort foods and one-pot things. For whatever reason that week, I had been thinking about soups. I’m not sure why, other than speed and volume, which makes sense–they can be quick and adaptable to things you have on hand, and easily scaled up. They’re also great for us parents to pack as decent hot lunches.
Simple and fast is usually a good plan in our house anyway.
I had two recipes in mind. The first was a chicken soup variation that I like to make. It meets the demands of simple and fast, with the added benefit that the kids eat it. And since we were all feeling a bit junky, I thought some of its magical properties would help.
I have always believed chicken soup does something for us. I recently discovered that even Dr. Oz thinks so, so now I’m convinced, even though the kids look at me like they should slowly back out of the room.
I borrowed the recipe from no particular source. I just started boiling chicken and throwing in vegetables. It has evolved into this:
- 1-2 lbs chicken (I usually use boneless thighs because they are cheaper and more flavorful, but a little more labor is involved)
- Water to cover, plus another couple of cups (or add chicken or vegetable broth, if you prefer)
- a large sweet or yellow onion, or some small ones
- carrots (raw or canned, I’ve used both, but I prefer peeling and chopping my own, 4 or 5 depending on size)
- 3-4 large sticks celery, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp parsley
- optional cooked rice or small pasta such as orzo, ditalini, noodles, or bow ties; sometimes I use barley (I put in 3/4 cup uncooked, especially if I plan on cooking awhile; makes it a bit stewy, use a little more water),
Place the chicken and water or broth into a large stockpot pot and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and seasonings, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and coming apart, at least an hour. Stir occasionally, and serve alone or with optional rice or pasta. Crusty bread and sharp cheese accompany nicely.
The other recipe, which Buddy ranked ahead of pizza earlier, is something I had during a trip to Ireland, which I described before.
The Hungry Monk Cafe in the village of Cong, County Mayo was a delightful surprise. The dining room was small, and crowded (it was their last day of the season). I tried their Cream of Broccoli Soup (with brown bread) and promptly forgot there was anyone else in the room.
The owner kindly told me the recipe, which seems to have been misplaced. However, it was similar to this one which I started with, but changed for what I had on hand.
It is easy to make. It provokes curiosity, when I’m batching it through the blender, from everyone except for Pinball, who dives behind whichever of his older siblings is closest.
When I have time, I find it particularly good with brown bread to go with it. This recipe from Epicurious works nicely. Warm bread also makes it easier for the kids, too. Some kind of potent synergy occurs, but I just go with it.
With all of the one-pot dishes and great soups that make winter more bearable, I’m almost sorry to see it go. This year though, not so much.