Category Archives: Soups

Basic Chicken Stock

Stock ingredientsStock Ingredients

I’ve spent a few Thanksgiving holiday weekends over the years nursing a cold, so I wasn’t too surprised to wake up this morning feeling a little bit run down.  Between school and volunteering in order to get some more kitchen assisting experience, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately.  This weekend is the first one I’ve had in a while to catch my breath.  I’ve been tackling those little projects around the apartment, like cleaning out the freezer.

Chicken parts

For the practical exam that we had to take at the end of the second level of our culinary program, I had bought a few chickens to practice butchering skills.  I’d packed up the parts and had put them in the freezer thinking that, at some point, I’d make stock with them.  Today seemed like as good a day as any to tackle this culinary project.

Mirepoix – the aromatic element for the stock

Making stocks was one of the lessons we learned early in the Culinary Techniques course.  Now that our group has moved into the level where we cook the family meal each lesson for students and staff, we make stocks every night in large volume so that others in the school can use it as needed for their recipes.  It’s kind of made me fall in love with the process of creating these richly fragrant bases for adding to sauces, cooking risottos or turning into soups.  So, I gathered up the ingredients and set aside a couple of hours to let the stock simmer away, giving me the perfect opportunity to figure out my Christmas card/gift list.

Chicken stock all packed up

Basic Chicken Stock

Prep Time: about 2 1/2 hours

Yield: about 2 1/2 quarts or 2.36 litres of stock


2 1/2 lbs. or 1.15 kilos Chicken parts (body, wings)

5 pints or 2.5 litres Water

12 oz. or 340 grams Onion, cut into large chunks (approximate)

7 oz. or 200 grams Carrots, cut into large chunks (approximate)

5 oz. or 140 grams Celery, cut into large chunks (approximate)

1 Bay Leaf

6-7 Parsley stems

10 Black Peppercorns


Place chicken parts and water into a deep pan.  Make sure that the water covers the chicken completely.  Bring the mixture up to a simmer over low heat.  Skim off the impurities that rise to the top of the liquid and discard them.

Water and chicken pieces in the pot

Impurities rising to the top of the stock

Scum from the stock

Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, parsley stems, and peppercorns to the pan.  Keep the liquid on a low simmer and let it cook away for about two hours, until the chicken has released its flavor into the water.

Herbs for the stock

Adding vegetables and herbs to the stock

Once the stock has simmered a couple of hours and has taken on a light chicken-y taste, ladle it into a bowl and place the bowl in a water bath to cool it down.  Then, if not using it right away, pour the stock into containers to store and to freeze it.  The stock will keep for several months in the freezer.

Straining the chicken stock

Cooling down the chicken stock

Chicken stock ready to use

Note that I did not add garlic, thyme or salt to this recipe, as some recipes call for.  This is because I wanted the stock to have as neutral a flavor as possible so that I could have the flexibility of using it in many different kinds of dishes, including just to make soup to fight off the winter sniffles.

Buon appetito!

St. Patrick’s Day Menu Ideas – Leek & Potato Soup with Cheddar Cheese-Chive Tuiles

Leek & Potato Soup with Cheddar Cheese-Chive Tuiles

With folks getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, it seemed only fitting to develop a Lent-friendly, vegetarian version of an Irish staple Leek & Potato Soup.  While I can’t confirm that any of my relatives ever ate this dish, and my mother never fixed it for us, as it is such a basic soup using just a few simple ingredients, I could see where it might have been on the table of my ancestors.  They left Fair Erin more than 150 years ago on one side of the family and longer ago than that on the other side, so I can’t really ask anyone about it to be sure.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I dressed up this recipe a wee bit with a Cheddar Cheese-Chive Tuile, but had it not been a meat-free day, I would have been tempted to add a mound of the smoked bacon that I’d discovered at Gourmet Guild last weekend.

Leek & Potato Soup

Serving Size: at least 8 portions as a starter

Prep Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour


1 c. Yellow Onion, chopped

3 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed

3 large Leeks, cleaned and chopped

4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

4 c. Water

1 tsp. Salt

1/4 tsp. Black Pepper

1 tsp. Fresh Chives, chopped


Take one medium onion and chop it into about 1/4-inch sized pieces, making about 1 cup.  For a tutorial on an easy, quick method for chopping onions, please click here.

Peel potatoes.

Cut the potatoes into about 1-inch cubes and put them in a saucepan along with cold water.  Set them aside while cleaning and cutting the leeks.  Keeping them in water will stop them turning brown (oxidizing) before you are ready to cook them.

Potato slice

Nibble on end of potato that you didn’t add to the others.  What?  You didn’t cut off a bit of potato to have as a snack?  My dad always did that for me when I was little, so I keep the tradition today.  Raw, starchy, crunchy, and a bit teeth-coating, it’s a root vegetable textural thing.

Dirty Leeks

I love leeks, but they are a mess to clean and prepare.  My suggestion is to fix them last, after the onions and the potatoes, so the dirt is contained and it doesn’t travel to the other ingredients.

Cut off the root end of the leek.

Cut off and discard the tough, dark green ends of the leek.

Cut leek in half down the middle.

Eewww, see how dirty that is inside?  That is stuff we don’t want in the soup.

Angle the darker ends of the leeks away from you, so that the grit or dirt doesn’t wash back down to the cleaner part of the leek.  Roll around in your hands to make sure that you’ve cleaned them thoroughly.

Chop leeks into about 1-inch pieces.  They might even squeak at you when you chop the, as they are so clean!

Melt butter in large pot or Dutch oven over low heat until it gets frothy.

Add onions.

Add leeks.

Stir leeks and onions so that they are coated in the butter.  Let them cook for 2-3 minutes until glossy and the onions are translucent.

This is what they should look like – moisture sweated out and all glossy and shiny.  For the record, yes, I did remove that rogue speck of dirt that somehow made it in there.

Drain potatoes, keeping the water in which they were sitting as that will be added to the soup pot, too.  Put potatoes into pot along with the leeks and onions.

Stir potatoes to make sure that they get coated in a some of the sweated fat mixture.

Pour in 4 cups of the water that was drained from the saucepan in which they were sitting.  If there isn’t enough water leftover from that, just add all of the potato water and top it up with regular water to make 4 cups of liquid.

Bring mixture to a boil.  Turn the heat down and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes.  [If you are thinking about making the Cheddar Cheese-Chive Tuiles to go along with the soup, this would be a good point at which to start that, as the tuiles can set while you are working on the puréeing part of the recipe.

Test to make sure that the potatoes are cooked all the way through and that the leeks are very soft.  The potatoes should basically be on the verge of breaking apart when a knife is inserted all the way through them.

Turn off the heat.  With an immersion blender (one of my favorite pieces of kitchen equipment), purée the potato-leek-onion mixture until it is smooth and creamy.

Add salt and pepper and stir blend into the soup.  Taste.  Adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Serve warm with the tuile draped lovingly over the side.  The warmth of the soup will allow it to melt lusciously into the dish so that you get a nutty, tangy bite of the cheese with each creamy spoonful of the soup.

Buon appetito and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup from Paula Wolfert

I’ve been enchanted by Paula Wolfert’s book The Food of Morocco since it came out last year.  I raved about all the great dishes that everyone made from it for the event hosted by the Culinary Historians of New York featuring Ms. Wolfert, but I hadn’t yet tried my hand at any of them.  Food and Wine also did a feature on some of the recipes, which I’d set aside to make later.  One in particular caught my eye, the Spiced Butternut Squash Soup, which seemed like a perfect thing to make on this snowy Saturday.

I used a kabocha squash

In anticipation of the arriving storm, I’d stocked up on the ingredients.  I even managed to track down a goats cheese cheddar from Patches of Star farm at the Union Square Greenmarket.  It might not have been exactly the same as the one called for in the recipe, but it imparted a tangy, creamy flavor that when combined with a dollop of crème fraîche and a smidgen of harissa livened up the squash and blended well with the La Kama spice mixture which was cooked with the vegetables.

La Kama spice blend (Wolfert suggests using the leftover with roasted vegetables)

As with many winter vegetable soup recipes, this came together relatively quickly after the labor of dismantling and de-gutting the squash.  I should have taken a photo of the whole messy process, but my hands were too sticky and I wasn’t quite sure how attractive it would have been to see a picture of all the seeds and fibrous mass that came out of the kabocha splayed all over my countertops.  It’s kitchen carnage at its best.

Mixing everything together

When finished, the soup has a vibrant orange color, made even richer in texture by flecks of the spices.  Sometimes I find that these single vegetable dishes can be dull and bland; however, that is not the case here.  The heat from the harrisa, the sour pucker of the cream, and the earthiness of the aged goats cheese cut through the strong notes of the squash to create a harmonious spoonful of warm, soul-filling flavor.  The aroma is enticing without being heavy, leaving one to dream about warmer, more exotic shores far away from our current winter wonderland.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Buon appetito!

Curling up with Chicken Soup and Kathleen Flinn’s Book “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry”

The least-well-received “present” that I got during the holidays was a cold bug from one of my nephews.  As much as I loved playing with the active little guy and holding his newborn brother, I really didn’t need an extra special gift from them to take home with me to New York.  Fortunately, I could sit on the couch for a few days and wrap myself up in Kathleen Flinn’s book about her adventures in culinary school, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry,* as I nursed my way through stuffed-up sinuses and a hacking cough.

This story about surviving job loss, pursuing long-held dreams, living in Paris, and finding love, was the perfect antidote for my illness.  Each chapter tells a piece of the tale of Flinn’s trip from mid-level corporate worker to graduate of the Cordon Bleu cooking school, the same one that Julia Child attended.  She ends every installment of her journey with a recipe based upon some of what she learned in the program or in life.  I have to say that these dishes sounded delicious and were tempting me, even in my cold-medicine-induced haze to try to reproduce them.

Flinn also talks about the time she had la grippe or the flu when she was in Paris.  Having been sick far away from home, in another country, with a language barrier to boot, I can imagine just how miserable she felt.  I’ve been there.  There’s the challenge of trying to figure out how to explain what ails you, sorting out what you can get over the counter to cure the aches and pains, and conjuring up how to comfort yourself in an unfamiliar place.  For some relief, Flinn whips up a batch of Potage de Poulet aux Nouille, avec de l’Ail et des Herbes, or that childhood sickday staple more commonly known as Chicken Noodle Soup.  Looking for something to chase away my own symptoms, I decided this might just be the trick.  The rich, steaming broth studded with meat and sprinkled with vegetables and herbs opened up my nasal passages and soothed my sore throat.  In any language, the remedy for a cold remains the same.

Browning chicken for soup

Cooking the carrots, celery, onions, garlic

Adding stock and herbs to the pot – I didn’t make a bouquet garni, and I omitted the Herbes de Provence

Broth simmering away

Which gives me time to shred the chicken – I also took out the herbs at this point

Putting chicken and broth together – I opted not to add noodles

A bowl of warm, comforting chicken soup

Buon appetito!

Soup Tour with Seriously Soupy and Explorecation

Yesterday was one of those gifts of a day that happens just every so often to break up the cold and grey weather.  It makes you feel as though spring is just around the corner, setting us up to get whalloped by an enormous blizzard about two weeks from now.  It was the perfect setting to get out and do a food tour of Manhattan.  Twenty New Yorkers joined Serena at Seriously Soupy and Sebastian and Hannah from Explorecation (a new site that lets folks find unique and interesting ways to explore cities via any parameter you would like) for a Lower Manhattan Soup Tour to try out some of the city’s delicious offerings.

Our first stop was off of a little street in Chinatown.  I almost never head downtown to this neighborhood unless it is for a meeting or a food-related reason, so after I practically clawed my way through the locals who were shopping and perusing produce stalls, weaved in and out of the tourists who were dawdling on the sideways looking at knock-offs, and avoided the surreptitious vendors trying covertly to sell me watches and handbags (none of which would be authentic), I was really ready to eat some soup.  Fortunately, our tour started at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, Inc.

When the steaming bowls of long, chewy noodles bathed in hot broth and dotted with vegetables/meats/seafood (where ordered) arrived in front of us, collective “aahhhs” rose from the tables.  These are the dishes that inspire rabid fandom among New York food-types.  The prices were very reasonable as well, with the most expensive plate being that for the seafood version, which my food tour compatriots said had some of the freshest ingredients they’d ever tasted (not a complete surprise with all the amazing fish stands in this part of town).  It topped out at about $8.00.

I selected the Fujianese Wonton Meatball soup.  The thinly-wrapped, meat stuffed orbs were great hearty bites located within the intense broth, and I think that their fattiness added some extra flavor to the soup and the noodles themselves.  The bit of green decorating the sides of the bowl made me feel a bit better about indulging in the meatballs.  The noodles were toothsome and chewy and made me want to keep eating more and more of them.  As Chinatown isn’t located all that far from the courthouses, I could see my next stint on jury duty being a great excuse for my heading over there again to try out other types of their soups and maybe even some of their other noodle dishes.

Our next stop wasn’t too far away at Da Nico Ristorante in Little Italy.  Their menu has pizza, pasta, and several typical Italian soups to try.  Usually, I avoid the restaurants in Little Italy, but this one seemed very charming on the interior and several Italian women were finishing up their meal just as we sat down to sample their soups, always a good sign.  I had the Stracciatella alla Romana, and Serena tried the Pasta Fagioli.  I’ve seen many versions of the latter soup, also called pasta fazool in more slangy terms.  Hers looked gorgeous with curly pasta covered in tomato broth and a pile of beans located within it.  My soup was bright green with bits of cooked egg dotted around it and a very light broth covering everything.  It definitely benefited from a dusting of cheese to add a creamy, dairy bite to all the vegetables.

At the end of our meal, we were presented with plates of fritelle.  These fried dough things covered in powdered sugar are similar to beignets or funnel cake or any one of a number of different fried dough things that many cultures have.  At this time of year, they appear in Italian restaurants and food shops, like several of the ones I visited in Rome, as part of the pre-Lenten indulgences getting everyone ready to fast and make their annual sacrifices.

Our final stop yesterday was the venerable Katz’s Delicatessen.  The walk from Little Italy to this part of the Lower East Side should have been enough time to digest the offerings we’d eaten at the previous two stops.  I’m blaming the fritelle for having pushed us over the edge, but as we all staked our places in front of the steaming counters of meats, soups, sauerkraut, hotdogs, and other delicacies, sadly, no one seemed to have the room left to try their Matzo Ball Soup.  I was a bit disappointed, as I’d hoped that maybe between the ones of us who were left, we could have at least tried to share a bowl.  I have eaten it in the past, so I can testify to its heart-warming, homey, comforting effects.

Aside from the fact that everyone who reads this site regularly or talks to me for any length of time can attest to the fact that I love eating, one of the other things I really love is that New York has such a great combination of foods from other places, whether they are old-school traditional dishes or newer, more inventive fare.  Food tours are great ways to get out there and discover all this richness and deliciousness.   I also really enjoy meeting the people who participate in these excursions.  We had an in-depth discussion of offal at the first stop and discussed travel stories (and passport issues) at the second one.  Despite the fact that we didn’t eat at Katz’s, we did talk about what dumpling equivalents exist in other cultures and proposed that as a theme for another eating tour for the near future.

Buon appetito! 

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, Inc. is located at 1 Doyers Street in Chinatown, just off of Bowery (no website).

Da Nico Ristorante is located in Little Italy at 164 Mulberry Street between Grand and Broome Streets.

Katz’s Delicatessen is located at 205 East Houston Street between Orchard and Ludlow Streets.  Note that it often gets very crowded, being popular with both tourists and locals. 

Thanksgiving Dishes – A Roundup

This year things are going to be a bit different for me for Thanksgiving.  As I’m no longer working in an office, the annual ritual of folks passing by my cube, looking for those last-minute recipe hints or swapping holiday cooking disaster stories (for the record, I don’t have any of those) is not going to be taking place.  This also means that I don’t have to confess to anyone that I’ve never actually made the centerpiece of the meal: the turkey.

My mother always made the turkey and gravy.  I wasn’t even allowed near it, except when it came to pulling out the innards (which, thankfully came stored in a plastic bag shoved down its inside).  At every other meal to which I’ve been invited, it is usually the host who takes care of this.  Even when my roommates and I had folks over to eat many years ago, I was able to get out of poultry duty.

I’m the first one to volunteer to bring dessert or a side dish to the meal, if it is a potluck, and will almost-willingly peel the mounds of potatoes it takes to feed my large and carb-friendly family (although I’m really looking for someone in the next generation who can take over from me on that), but I’ve never tackled cooking the big bird.  This year will be no different, as far as I know.

So, what I’ve been promising everyone is that I’ll pull together some of the side dishes that I’ve posted previously that might be suitable for the occasion.  I’ve also linked to two other new dishes that I created recently using products that I recently discovered via Schoolhouse Kitchen.  These might not all be the same things that were served at the first harvest celebration held by the Puritans in Plymouth, but they should be very tasty and might give you some new ideas to carry over to your own family’s annual table.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Buon appetito!

Spiced Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins with Maple Butter

Buttermilk Biscuits
(I’m partial to the ones with Cheddar and Chives)

Pears and Cheese
(without the salad, this could also be a dessert course)

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyère Croutons

Spinach Salad

Spiced Pecan and Pear Salad

Baked Couscous with Spinach and Pine Nuts 
(a potluck standby, this can also be made vegan by omitting the cheese)

Farro Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Thyme-Roasted Mushrooms 
(this can also be made vegan by omitting the butter and cheese)

Roasted Parsnips with Schoolhouse Kitchen’s Bardshar Chutney

Sweet Potato Mash with Schoolhouse Kitchen’s Squadrilla Chutney

Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie