Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chicken to Broth to Soup.

“Winter is coming, Jon Snow”, and that means snow, ice, freezing winds; chilled bodies seeking warmth. Living in San Juan County, especially at the high altitude of Monticello, there are times when conditions can leave you shivering from the inside to out. Those commercials that feature chicken soup are not lying when they imply it cures what ails you. While the nutrition from the ingredients can help the immune system fight off colds, it’s the inner peace and comfort that makes the mind and soul strong as well.

So, we’ve only just entered fall and here I am writing about winter, and for a good reason. Pay attention to the smallest of creatures, squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks; watch as they pack themselves up with edible items and scurry back to their dens. They are hoarding for the winter, since they know finding food in snow and ice packed land is near to impossible. Oh, we think it’s just so simple to go to the store and buy what we need without giving necessity another thought. What about when the stores are closed, or what you need has already run out? In this new age, we take for granted, well, just about everything nowadays; we assume all we need will always be available.

Let’s travel back to 1847 and imagine how life was, for the pioneers coming out West, 168 years ago. From the East Coast to the Mississippi River, immigrants from all over Europe had become citizens of the USA; bringing their culture, and recipes, from their homelands. One ingredient that had become a main staple in almost every home was the chicken, so those wagon trains included crates full of egg laying, flightless birds. Now and then, one of those chickens gave up its life to feed the many; nothing was wasted, not even the bones.

I’m going to be referring to the article, “A Melting Pot of Pioneer Recipes”, by Winnifred C. Jardina, at the Official Website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once again. No, I'm not Mormon, but that doesn't stop me from using recipes from their sites; I do NOT discriminate against food! A recipe for “Velvet Chicken Soup” definitely caught my eye; rich with butter, cream and eggs; yet a perfect recipe for a seasoned broth as well. For those adept at cooking, or even just starting out, the techniques used in this recipe are simple and useful. For example, when one cup of the seasoned broth is slowly mixed into the beaten eggs that is called “tempering the eggs”. If the eggs were dumped into the hot broth, it would cause the eggs to scramble which is how Chinese Egg Drop Soup is made. Instead, the eggs are brought up to a warmer temperature with the slow edition of the broth, so when fully added to the soup pot, a rich, creamy soup is created instead.

As I stated already, the recipe creates a deliciously seasoned broth that can be stored in freezer containers; or in ice cube trays where the broth is portioned out in tablespoons when that is all that’s called for. The meat from the chicken can also be portioned out in freezer bags for use in other recipes during the winter months. Take a clue from our little creatures and remember, “Winter is coming”.

Velvet Chicken Soup


3 or 4 pounds chicken
3 quarts cold water
1 tablespoon salt 6 peppercorns (or 1/4 teaspoon white pepper)
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 cups rich milk or cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, well beaten


Thoroughly clean chicken and cut into pieces. Put in covered kettle with cold water and salt. Bring to boil quickly and simmer until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from stock and remove meat from bones (saving meat to use in croquettes, pie, etc.)

Return bones to soup stock and add peppercorns (or white pepper), chopped onions, and chopped celery. Simmer together until a little more than a quart of stock remains in pan; strain, cool, and remove all fat. (Stop here if you intend on storing for future uses.)

Add rich milk or cream, bring to a boil, and thicken with cornstarch that’s been mixed smooth with a little cold water. Add butter and season to taste.

Beat eggs with a little cream. Pour 1 cup soup over egg mixture, stirring well, then pour egg-soup mixture back into soup, stirring constantly, and cook 2 minutes.

Serve hot in soup dishes, adding bite-size croutons if desired.

Note: after cutting up the chicken, I removed as much of the skin and fat layer as possible. The flavor was still intense, and there was not that much fat to remove later on. In the cooling process, I placed all the broth into a large plastic bowl, covered and put into the freezer for one hour. The fat rises to the top and can be easily scooped off; this technique is also great when using pan drippings to make gravy.

Mary Cokenour

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