Friday, February 12, 2010

Use Your Frozen Veggies for a "Warm Up" Soup

Last Christmas season, I was yearning for a short trip to someplace sunny and completely different. My friend Pat Pacheco agreed to join me for a few days in Northern Arizona. We flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to the Sedona area where we were fortunate enough to rent a little place with a kitchen.

We had a wonderful time hiking and exploring and we also did some serious cooking. Pat treated me to her family recipe for homemade chicken and vegetable soup - her family is from Northern Mexico - and she had adopted it from their version. We thought this soup was so good on cold nights after being outdoors all day that we never did make it out to dinner.

The soup combines the flavors of chicken, corn, potatoes and other vegetables in a really satisfying way with lots of color and flavor. Now I've made it three or four times and can share it with confidence. One of the reasons I like this recipe so much is that it's a good way to use frozen vegetables that you have preserved from last summer's garden. If you don't have any of those, it's good way to take advantage of economical flash frozen veggies from the supermarket.

Don't be afraid of using all the garlic and bay leaves this recipe calls for. It seems like a lot, but these seasonings plus the corn and potatoes are what make the soup savory and delicious.
Pat's Scrumptious Chicken and Vegetable Soup

You'll need: One large deep soup pot

2 large onions cut in coarsely cut in large chunks
10 cloves garlic, peeled and cut quarters
8 bay leaves
4 to 5 large carrots, peeled, cut in 1" slices
5 medium to large boiling potatoes, chopped in 1" cubes.
1 nice, plump, 3 1/2 to 5 lb. chicken, washed,
    with liver and excess fat removed
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 Jalapeno chile, cut in quarters or one dried
   medium hot chile of your choice
1 sixteen to twenty ounce bag of frozen corn kernels
1 sixteen ounce bag of frozen sliced green beans
1 sixteen ounce bag of frozen garden peas
1 cup of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Put the onions, garlic, bay leaf, carrots, potatoes, whole chicken, salt and pepper and chile into the deep soup pot in the order given. Add enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring the pot to a boil, then return to a simmer and continue to cook until the chicken is completely done and the drumstick pulls away easily. This usually takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on your stove.

Remove the pot from the stove, and take the chicken out of the soup. Cool slightly, then take off the skin and meat. Chop all the meat into bite-size pieces. Skim off excess fat from soup. Add the chicken back to the soup. Bring back to a boil then add the frozen corn, green beans and peas. Stir well and return pot to a boil. Lower heat and cook gently for another 10 minutes. Add chopped parsley or cilantro. Sample the soup as it may need more salt to match your taste.
Serve hot making sure each diner gets plenty of the veggies and chicken along with the broth. The soup tastes even better the next day!
Makes 8-10 servings or more depending on the size of your appetite.
At home, I freeze the soup in individual portions and look forward to eating it for lunch, especially on long draggy days when I need a little flavorful and rewarding but virtuous comfort food.
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