Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Soup Challenge: The Final Recipe

The recipe is finished. I've tested, tweaked and tasted to brothy perfection and, finally, I'll present to you, my worthy readers, my submission for the New England Country Soup "Yours vs. Ours" challenge...

Spicy Chicken, Diatlini and Basil Tomato Soup

Disclaimer: This isn't a shortcut, easy-as-pie soup. The total prep time is about half an hour and total cook time is roughly four hours, which you'll most likely want to spread out over a couple of days. The reason there's so much time behind this seemingly simple soup is that I wanted to build as much flavor into the recipe as possible and there's only one way to get a slow-cooked taste... slow cooking! So, I've included roasting the chicken and making the chicken stock in my soup recipe.

The ingredient list...
1 4.5-5lb whole chicken
4 carrots
4 celery stalks
3 onions
2 cups water
1 tbsp butter
4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 28 oz can ground peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
2 cups ditalini pasta

First Step: Roasting the Chicken

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut two carrots, two celery stalks and one onion into large chunks. Wash off your chicken and place it in a roasting pan.

Spread the butter over the skin and sprinkle with one teaspoons each kosher salt and pepper. Line the roasting pan with the carrots, celery and onion and pour in 2 cups of water. Cook uncovered for twenty minutes for each pound plus 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees. Start with the chicken breast up. One third of the way through cooking time, turn the chicken on its side for the second third, and then switch it to its other side for the last third. Baste every time you turn the chicken. This ensures an evenly cooked and juicy chicken.

When the chicken is done, let it cool a bit, then carve it. Reserve two cups of the breast meat (without skin) for the soup. The rest of the meat will be great for a roasted chicken dinner, sandwiches or even chicken soup! 

Next Step: Making the Broth

Put the chicken bones (don't worry about taking off the skin or any leftover meat, we'll be straining that out) in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let it go for one hour. Then, add two chopped carrots, two chopped celery stalks and one chopped onion as well as two sprigs of thyme and two teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring this to a boil and let it go for 45 minutes.  Then, pour through a tightly-meshed strainer into another pot. If any fat gets through, just scrape it out with a spoon. Boil this down to 2/3rds of its original amount.  This should make you about six cups of broth but you'll only need four for the soup, so freeze the remaining broth.

Finally - the Soup!

Put on water for your pasta according to the package's directions and cook the ditalini to al dente. Strain and set aside. 

Dice one onion and warm up 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When you can smell the oil, add in the onions and let them sweat out until they are translucent, stirring often. Next, add one can of tomato paste, stirring it into the onions, then cook for two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so. 

Now, add 1 can of ground peeled tomatoes, four cups of your homemade chicken stock, one teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce, 1 bay leaf, 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped oregano. Bring this to a boil then turn the heat to low and let it cook for 20 minutes. 

Then, add your diced chicken and ditalini. Bring the heat up to medium and cook for 20 more minutes. 

Finally, you're ready to eat! I'd recommend serving with some good bread for soaking up the extra broth. This soup freezes well and makes enough for 4-6 servings.

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