Monday, January 11, 2010

Something good that's good for you...

So yesterday while Ben helped me chop all the ingredients for tonight's dinner I was making chicken stock.  I think that chicken stock is one of those ingredients that just can't be substituted with store-bought, its just not even close.  Really, chicken stock is incredibly easy to make....10 minutes of prep and 4 hours of UNASSISTED cooking.  Many stock recipe calls for using a whole chicken.  To me, that is wasteful and the benefits don't outweigh the extra cost.  I use a whole chicken and remove both breasts and legs.  Use these in a separate dish or freeze them for later.  I am also a firm believer that using high quality chicken makes all the difference.  Try a local, free range chicken ( north of Baltimore has great poultry) or a Bell and Evans chicken carried by Whole Foods.  I think you will never go back to Purdue once you taste the difference.  It may cost a few dollars more but your health and palate is worth it.

Chicken Stock
1 Bell and Evans or other high quality chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 yellow onion
3 celery ribs
1/2 bag baby carrots
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh dill
10 peppercorns whole (or 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper)
1 tablespoon kosher salt.

Remove the breasts and legs from the chicken.  Check out this Good Housekeeping tutorial on how to break down a is a good skill to have.

Butchering a Chicken

Place the chicken into a large stock pot along with the remainder of the ingredients.  Cover all of these with cold water (approximately 10 - 12 cups of water).  Simmer uncovered for 4 hours.  Let the stock cool and you will be able to skim off most of the fat from the top of the stock.  Strain the liquid from the cooked ingredients.

Italian Wedding Soup (Ina Garten's Back to Basics)

For the meatballs:

  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

I added some Parmesan toasts.  I used freshly sliced Italian bread brushed with olive oil.  Sprinkle with the freshly grated parm and toast for about 4 mins.  


  1. If I still lived in MD I would definitely trade you babysitting services for free meals. =)

  2. love wedding soup! Do you find one chicken carcass alone to add enough flavor to the stock? Do you reduce it down at all?

  3. I alternate between leaving the legs and thighs on and removing them with the breast as well. Depends on the purpose for which I'm originally breaking down the chickens. I haven't noticed a difference between all the meat vs. less meat.

  4. I was actually referring to more bones rather than the meat (I agree, its a waste of good meat)... I usually get a 'bag of bones' from a few chickens for fear that it will be too weak with just one set o bones