Once cool weather hits, many of us crave soup. And when it comes to making soup, I always think of my late father's chicken soup: Take a big pot, add some onions, carrots and celery. Add one big chicken and water to cover. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer for hours.
It's that long simmer, which develops a deep chicken flavor, that made it so good.
Soups need a good base. A stock is strained liquid from cooking vegetables, meat or fish and their bones and seasonings in water. Brown stock is the same but the vegetables and bones are roasted before being cooked in water.
There are plenty of good quality canned varieties, but it's easy to make your own.
I make a brown stock with any chicken parts and pieces I have squirreled away in the freezer. Once I have enough, usually 3 to 4 pounds, I thaw it out.
I scatter the pieces on a sided sheet pan along with 1 large coarsely chopped onion, a few peeled and coarsely chopped carrots and two ribs of chopped celery. Place the pan in a preheated 425-degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the pieces are well browned. Check to make sure the bottom of the pan doesn't burn.
Once the bones and vegetables are browned, transfer them to a large stock pot. If needed, degrease the sheet pan. Add hot water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom; add those to the pot as well.
Add water to cover all ingredients, about 4 quarts (16 cups). Add a few peppercorns or bouquet garni of some dried herbs. Heat over medium to just a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cook for about 3 hours, skimming the surface of any fat or foam.
Strain into another pot or container, discarding the solids. Cool completely before refrigerating, then chill uncovered. Once chilled for several hours or overnight, remove any fat that has solidified on top. Season lightly before using.
Stock will keep several days in the refrigerator. I freeze it in small portions. Pour the stock into a standard muffin cup pan and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out and place them in a freezer bag. Each muffin cup holds about a half cup stock, making it easy to take out just what you need.
Chicken and rice soup with crispy tortillas
Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes about 16 cups
If you don't want to poach the chicken, use 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken. One rotisserie chicken yields about 3 cups meat.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, peeled, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
2 large chicken breast halves, each cut in half
4 cups water, divided
8 cups (or more as needed) homemade chicken stock or fat-free, less-sodium broth
One 28-ounce can stewed tomatoes
One 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, diced
2 tablespoons chili powder or more to taste
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons favorite all-purpose seasoning
1 1/2 cups cooked Spanish-style rice
Salt to taste
For tortilla strips:
20 small corn tortillas
1/4 cup canola oil
Chili powder, cumin and salt, to taste
In a large stock pot heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken breast pieces and 2 cups water. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and poach the chicken about 15 minutes or until tender.
Remove the chicken (leave remaining ingredients in pot) and use two forks to shred the chicken. Return shredded chicken to the pot. Add the remaining 2 cups water, chicken stock, tomatoes, green chilies, chipotle in adobo sauce, chili powder and all-purpose seasoning. Simmer the soup about 45 minutes, uncovered. Taste and season with salt to taste. Stir in the cooked rice and simmer about 10 minutes more.
To make the tortilla strips: Cut tortillas into 1/4-inch strips. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tortilla strips on a sided baking sheet and drizzle with canola oil. Sprinkle with chili powder, a pinch of cumin if desired, and salt. Bake about 15 minutes or until strips are crispy. The strips will keep several days stored in plastic bag.
Serve the soup topped with baked tortilla strips and, if desired, shredded cheese and avocado.
Per serving (1 cup): 104 calories (25 percent from fat), 3 grams fat (0 grams sat. fat ), 9 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 763 mg sodium, 22 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.