Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Soup Challenge: First Test Batch

Finally! After two days (four hours and 40 minutes of active prep/cook time), last night at approximately 9:30 pm I got to sit down to bowl of homemade chicken basil pomodoro soup. Now, this soup would normally make a quick meal but since I roasted the chicken and made my own stock I added hours to the process.

The background complexity involved in cooking is really amazing. Those unassuming little ditalini circles, basil flakes and chicken chunks floating in warm tomato soup are loaded with hours and hours of labor and thought. Yet, the flavors are absorbed with just a quick slurp and a swallow. That first spoonful runs through our mouth, adding a red flush to our cheeks and descending quickly to our bellies, spreading its warmth all the way to the tips of our fingers, right back to handle of the spoon it just left. And, during that second of detainment on our tongue, we soak up first the sweetness of the tomato, fresh basil and oregano then we're hit with the soup's murmur of acidity and slight saltiness before we get a subtle kick from that splash of hot sauce. Making this soup from scratch myself definitely made me slow my roll when it came time to enjoy it.

Overall, I'm happy with the way it came out, but I do have to make a few tweaks. Using roasted chicken and a homemade stock is a definitely must. The stock gave it a hearty freshness and the chicken chunks were moist and flavorful, but I loaded it up a bit too much on meat. This is good though, it means that my roast chicken can be stretched to be more than one meal (my mom is going to say "duhhhhhhh!" to that). I think I'll put just a cup of chicken in my next batch, instead of two whole breasts, much to the chagrin of my taste-tester, who loves a stew-like soup. I also went a little heavy on the pasta, so I'll limit that to one cup as well. The liquid-to-solid ratio in my soup was way out of whack.

And, while the hot sauce was a last resort because I by accident threw out my cracked red pepper in my Sunday night cleanup mania, I think it actually worked better. The heat of the sauce was more wholly incorporated into the soup than the red pepper flakes would have been. And, I'm going to pretty much double the fresh basil next time around. I use just a bit more basil than oregano and I don't think it stood out enough. But fresh basil, instead of dried, is absolutely the way to go.

So, tonight is the leftovers test and we'll see how well it holds up after being refrigerated and reheated. Now, I just hope Mike really did like the soup because there's going to a lot of chicken basil pomodoro in his immediate future. I'm going to have to go ahead and make another batch with my small tweaks next week! Once it's just the way I want it to be, I'll definitely share the recipe.

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