In my experience of being on this earth for some 30-odd-years (you know you are starting to get old when you are vague about your age), I have learned to keep things simple because simple works. But all too often things spiral into overwhelming tasks. When faced with complicated problems with kids, marriage, work, DIY projects, or just simply too much to do in a day, I've found it most helpful to take a step back and breakdown the problem, all the way to the roots, focusing on the key priorities of the project or decision. It's about establishing WHY you are taking on a certain task. Once you have defined the WHY, you can set your priorities and outline a critical path to success. The critical path keeps you on point, it defines what you need to focus on, and what you need to ignore.
Take cooking for instance: People tell me all the time, "I cannot cook." With a smile, I always tell them, "Yes, you can, you just need to know the roots of a few recipes and you can build anything from the root recipe."
Same thing with our kids who often say, "I can't do it." I tell them, "Yes, you can; I don't want to hear can't (though on certain things I will accept "I won't")." We then sit down and establish the WHY, breakdown the problem into parts, define obstacles and a method of of attack (sometimes the WHY isn't justifiable and the problem is abandon all together).
I do the same thing in my own life or when working with peers and the group encounters an overwhelming obstacle. It's a lot like chicken soup with complicated flavors. The chef who created the complicated recipe defined WHY he wanted to create the recipe then he had to go back to the simple recipe that he learned in culinary school, then built upon it from the knowledge and experiences he had gained in his career. The simplicity of the recipe lends itself to many variations. I hope you use it as a building block to create many hearty chicken soup recipes to share with your loved ones on a cold winter's day.
For the Stock:
- 1 Whole Chicken, cut into 10 pieces, if you have a meat cleaver it is best to hack the chicken into smaller 2"-4" pieces, but not the breast leave them intact.
- Vegetable Oil
- 1 Large Onion, chopped 1/4"
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 bay leaves
- Vegetable Oil
- 1 Large Onion, chopped 1/4"
- 2 Large Carrots, chopped 1/4"
- 1 Celery Stalk, chopped 1/4"
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 lb. pasta.
- Coat the bottom of a large dutch oven with vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat just until you see the first wisps of smoke, then add the chicken pieces, working in batches, skin side down until browned on both sides (don't over crowd, if you over crowd, the liquid won't evaporate and the chicken won't be brown, crispy, delicious chicken; it'll be overcooked on the inside, flabby on the outside, gross chicken).
- Once all the chicken is crispy and brown, add the onion reserved for the stock, and cook until just tender. Then return the chicken pieces to the pot, not the breasts though, cover and cook until the chicken pieces have released their juices, should take about 20 minutes. You'll need to cook at a lower temperature for the remaining steps being careful not to allow the pot to go over a low simmer, or you'll get cloudy stock.
- When the pieces have release their juices add the breast, back bone, water, salt, and bay leaves. Cook at a low simmer until the chicken breast are done through, they should register 160 - 165 degrees with a thermometer.
- Next, drain the stock through a fine mesh strainer, discarding solids and backbone, setting the chicken aside. Allow the stock to sit for a few moments and skim off the fat that has risen to the top.
- While the stock it resting move on to the soup, add vegetable oil to a CLEAN pot, just enough to coat the bottom. Heat over medium high heat, just until you see the first puff of smoke, then add the thyme, onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the carrots are tender.
- Next, add the reserved stock bring to a low simmer. If you are going to serve the soup immediately this is when you would add your pasta, but if you plan on having left overs or freezing the soup you want to wait until you are just about to serve otherwise the pasta will become mush and thicken your beautiful soup. — While we are at it lets talk about noodles. As far as noodles go, I don't care for egg noodles, but if you like them you should use them they will work in the recipe. Personally I like a chewy noodle so I go with pasta like mezzi tubetti, champanelle, or a tiny bow tie. Whatever you use the key is to be sure it has tubes, ripples, and/or crevices that can catch tiny particles of ingredients.
- Meanwhile, remove the skin from the reserved chicken and shred that poultry. Then add it back to the soup, heat through and serve.
Some ideas to build on would be to add ginger, soy sauce, or lemon grass to the broth for a eastern flavor. Maybe add some mushrooms and wild rice for a woodsy soup. Let me know what you come up with!