Week of Soup: Chicken Vegetable

I love making a giant pot of food.  Mostly because I get very fussy.  I didn’t find out I was a picky eater until later in life.  I only like delicious food.

That being said, I have no problems eating the same thing every day for a mindless meal.  If I can get something good, and it’s also convenient, I’ll gladly go through food stages.  Greek salad, add chicken, no cheese, sub spinach.  Hour of Power plus spinach.  I can and will eat the same thing every day.

Maybe that’s not for you.  But you can’t tell me you don’t have difficult weeks or weekends where you end up eating like garbage because there’s nothing made, you’re too tired, you just got home and you’ve got to be back at work in six hours, it’s a huge holiday weekend, you’ve got double header sporting events…it’s helpful to have some solid easy to heat food on standby in your fridge.

I used to call this “beige soup.”  It was bland looking, it was bland tasting, but it was perfect for working weekends and lunches at home.  I used to make it with beer instead of chicken stock, and I’d make a hefeweizen and lemon broth.  It wasn’t as good as it sounds.  Inevitably the chicken was a little overcooked, it was pretty much all white and taupe, and it was pretty boring.  Definitely food you NEED additional seasoning for, and togarashi was always our thing.  Still is, for soup.  But things have gotten way better in Beige Souplandia.  I’ve gotten aggressive with the sturdy greens, I make my friend who hates carrots just pick them out, because the orange is pretty.  I gave up on beer and lemon in favor of reduced brown chicken stock (and I got my latest batch to crumble the bones!  Adding one more day to the cook time was the secret).

I am that person who packs as much into her bag as possible.  As much into my suitcase, backpack, purse, skate bag, maximum capacity on all.  I cook the same way.  I have two All-Clad Master Chef 2 8-Quart Stockpots that I cook in almost religiously.  If I could only keep one pan, I’d keep one of those.  I love it.  And I pack as much into that pan as possible.  This makes…well.  Eight quarts of soup.  So you’re looking at maybe 12 – 16 servings here.  There’s a lot of prep work, but remind yourself that you can eat all week on this food.  It’s also relatively inexpensive to make, so that’s a win win win.

  • 4 chicken half breasts, on the bone
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 3 large turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 2-3 large parsnips, peeled and cut into pieces roughly the same size as the turnips
  • 3 handfuls of baby carrots (halved) or 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into pieces roughly the same size as the turnips
  • 4 quarts of brown chicken stock
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens
  • 4 bunches of baby bok choy
  • 2-3 handfuls of baby kale
  • half a head of celery, cut into pieces roughly the same size as the turnips
  • togarashi

So.  Cut things the same size.  When things are the same size, they cook the same, and look the same.

I group this soup into four projects:

  • chickeny things
  • root vegetables
  • cabbage
  • greens

Your first project is chickeny things.  Defrost four quarts of stock and bring to a simmer.  I want to reduce the stock, and that’ll take a while, so get that going early.  Washing the four chicken half breasts (you usually think of “one chicken breast” when it’s technically a half breast, so I’m trying to be technically correct), then prepare to poach them.  Put them in a large pot of water with a few bay leaves, and bring the water up to a simmer.  Cover, and keep at a simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove and drain, let cool.  Start prepping your vegetables.

turnips and parsnips

Root vegetables are next.  The turnip, parsnip and carrot should all be about the same size.  I can’t say that enough, though I won’t waste food to ensure perfect uniformity.  I just get as close as I can.  These are the first things into the pot.  I drop all of my root vegetables in the pot and then cover them with stock.  I always add stock after adding ingredients to keep the proportions right (I want lots of stuff, not lots of broth), and so I don’t overflow.  I keep reducing the original stock.  Bring the vegetables up to a simmer, and reduce the temperature to maintain a simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, you want to chop your chicken.  Chop the chicken into roughly the same sized chunks as the root vegetables.  Your chicken may be a little pink.  Don’t freak out, you’re not done cooking it.  If it’s a little pink, it’ll be perfect when the soup is done.  Set them aside.

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Start your cabbage project.  Separate the leaves from the stalks for your bok choy.  Put the leaves in with your greens, and then cut up the bok choy and celery to be about the same width as the parsnip slices.

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Prep your greens by slicing them into roughly 1.5″ x 3-4″ slices.  The bok choy leaves I just slice into 1.5″ slices.  Mustard greens (or collards if you choose), I slice in half and then into 1.5″ slices.  Baby kale i leave as is.

After you’ve hit your 10 minutes, your turnips should start turning translucent.  I like my turnips well done in this soup, relying on the cabbage for a little texture.  Drop in your chicken and your cabbage.  Top off your liquid.  Keep simmering for about five minutes.

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Turn off the heat, and start adding in greens.

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Greens lose a lot of volume as they wilt.  You will think you can’t fit in the greens.  You can.  I promise.  Start with the baby kale, then start dropping handfuls of greens.  I went through three stages of incorporating the greens.  I’d basically shove them under the liquid for a minute, and then distribute them more evenly throughout the soup.  Three doses of greens later, I had all greens incorporated.  I didn’t need to top off the soup after I added the chicken and cabbage, it worked out perfectly.
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A perfect blend of lean protein and hearty vegetables.  Mustard greens are my new favorite soup green for their lightly spiced flavor.  I also like kale and collard greens, because they’re hearty and stand up to refrigeration.  However, the bright green color will fade.  Add in some baby spinach or baby kale that you’ve got on hand to brighten the color when you’re heating it up for the next few days.
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