Monthly Archives: September 2010

chicken soup for the soul…

Have you ever seen a grown man swim around in a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup? I can now say that I have. Last night I witnessed a certain Cirque de Soleil type maneuver involving my husband and a huge bowl of fresh soup. Had I known such a simple dish could delight him in that way, I would have attempted to make it long ago.

I love to make soup. Its one of my favorite things to create. I rarely follow a recipe and usually just use the basic ingredients as a guide. Roasted peppers, tomatoes and garlic garnished with a little basil effortlessly come together into a flavorful soup. Sauteed mushrooms and onions simmered with lentils make a more substantial tasty stew. My husband Mark always eats my soupy concoctions but notes that they lack soul, by which he means meat. Every once in awhile, I’ll throw him a bone (pun completely intended) and put pork into his very own pot of green chili, or add chicken broth to his portion of a vegetable soup.

Yesterday he took the leftover roasted chicken with vegetables and created a hearty homemade chicken soup. He anxiously awaited my arrival home for a shared bowl. He watched me, giddily, as I took my first bite. Again, I expected it to taste more greasy or chicken-y or “bad” having avoided chicken and its broth for so many years. But it was good. It was really good! I still mostly navigated around the carved pieces of meat, but I did eat the broth soaked noodles and vegetables. My husband makes a damn good chicken noodle soup from scratch!

Later in the evening, he went in for round 2. Filling a large bowl to the rim, I caught him leaning over the counter, face first, slurping broth and noodles straight from the dish. He danced around the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear and rubbing his tummy. (This is not an exaggerated description for effect. I almost took video for proof.) Then he dove in with a spoon AND a fork, devouring the soup.

It was actually quite amusing how much he truly enjoyed his creation. For as simple as it was, I agree that it was quite delicious. And that says a lot coming from a mostly vegetarian!

Recipe: Mark’s Basic Chicken Noodle Soup***This is made with leftovers from a roasted chicken w/vegetables. Measurements and times are a best guess and can be adjusted however you prefer.***
Chicken neck/carcass/leftover bones
Leftover cooked Carrots , Celery, Potatoes, Onions
Soup fillers:
Cooked chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces
~ 3 Raw Carrots & Potatoes
1 Package Egg Noodles
Salt & Pepper to taste

To make stock, cover the leftover bones and roasted vegetables with water, about 2 inches above solids. Cook down and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Strain out solids and put broth back in the pot. Add desired fresh vegetables to broth until vegetables are tender, 20-30 minutes. Add leftover cooked meat and noodles. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until noodles are al dente. Season with salt & pepper. Pile in a bowl and slurp immediately!


one bite at a time…

I did it! I roasted a chicken all by my lonesome (ok, with the help of my husband Mark who made sure it wasn’t undercooked or overdone) AND I tasted it. It was the first piece of chicken to pass through these lips in nearly 15 years.

Now before anyone gets too excited, I want to state that this chicken is NOT meant to be a “gateway” meat. No, bacon is not next. This is special chicken that I have researched and found to be acceptable for consumption. Its fresh, free range, local, happy chicken whose purchase enables a farmer to make a living.

I had four bites of roasted chicken, and guess what? I didn’t die. It was actually quite surreal, as ridiculous as that probably sounds to all of you meat eaters out there. It wasn’t too greasy or strong-tasting as I feared. I want to be really excited and say that I loved it, but the truth is I just thought it was ok, edible if you will. And believe me, Mark practically licked his plate so I know it wasn’t my cooking methods. I think it will just take time, or maybe I won’t ever reacquire the taste for chicken. I’m just pleased that I didn’t make myself sick about it. I chewed it slowly, intentionally, one bite at a time.

It’s strange how it feels different in my belly than other food does. Its heavier. Or maybe its all in my head? I honestly felt full after my four bites. Hmm, new diet strategy?

My main desire in overcoming my fear of eating chicken stems from my cooking passion. I would like to be able to make a poultry recipe and taste it without the automatic gag reflex. I would like for the presence of chicken broth to not ruin my ability to sample a dish.

I don’t plan to run out to a restaurant and order Chicken Cordon Blue. But if my husband is sampling a delicious curry and it happens to have chicken in it, I’d like to be able to try it without reservation. When Thanksgiving rolls around, I’d like the option of purchasing a free range turkey to prepare and consume. I’ve made many turkeys in my life and always had to take someone’s word that it was edible as I couldn’t bring myself to even have a small bite. Mind over matter, silly girl.

My intention to reintroduce poultry to my diet occasionally is also to help clarify “good” and “bad” foods in my mind. I have vilified all meat as bad. While I somehow justified eating fish years ago, I never took the next step to local, farm raised meats. I realize that some of the “grocery store” fish I purchase is just as processed and farmed as the packaged beef down the aisle. I need to redefine my food choices and do the best that I can to eat a sustainable, healthy, well-rounded diet.

At least I know that I am being more reasonable now and consciously making decisions about what is acceptable to put in my body. I’m attempting to distinguish clean meat from hormone-laden factory farmed garbage. I’m trying to remove the negative label I blanketed on all meat. I’m not sure that I want to eat it on a regular basis but my attitude towards it is changing.

There are several chicken dishes that I would like to be able to prepare and hopefully enjoy. I hope to share these wonderful recipes and experiences with you, chicken by chicken, as they are delivered to my home from Paulie’s Pasture. In the meantime, here is the simple roasted chicken recipe I created last night from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Hey look Mom, I’m eating chicken! One bite at a time…

Recipe: Simple Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs fresh tarragon, rosemary, or thyme (optional)
5 or 6 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
Chopped fresh herbs for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 450F. Five minutes after turning on the oven, put a cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet on a rack set low in the oven. Rub the chicken with the olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and put the herb sprigs on it if you’re using them.

2. When both oven and pan are hot, 10 or 15 minutes later, carefully put the chicken, breast side up, in the hot skillet; if you’re using garlic, scatter it around the bird. Roast, undisturbed, for 40 to 50 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh registers 155-165F.

3. Tip the pan to let the juices from the bird’s cavity flow into the pan (if they are red, cook for another 5 minutes). Transfer the bird to a platter and let it rest; if you like, pour the pan juices into a clear measuring cup, then pour or spoon off some of the fat. Quarter the bird, garnish with herbs, and serve with the pan juices.

free for all…

I am recovering from my gluttonous weekend of overeating. I’m suffering from indigestion, heart burn, and general grogginess. I think I have a food hangover, if that’s possible. I succumbed to all temptation, eating and drinking myself silly. I sampled every cheese, cookie, breadstick, and wine put in front of me. Like Thanksgiving, only two months early.

There is something about open bars and buffets that create a certain craziness. It encourages a very unattractive side of not only myself, but society in general. I am financially and physically capable of purchasing and preparing my own delicious food, but put in a “free for all” situation, I become one of the greedy masses.

On Friday night, I attended a Food and Film Festival with my husband. There was a flat entry fee to attend and then once inside, you had your choice of several food and beverage stations. As you waited in the long lines for oysters or martinis, waiters walked around with trays of fried goodies. They would get about 2 steps into the crowd and be bombarded with groups of people clearing their trays. I found myself making a mad dash and greedily grabbing the last dish of fried cheese curds. I paid good money to be here, I wanted my share! It was embarrassing.

During the films, they passed cucumber soda, fried Oreos and sugar pies down the aisles. It turns out there was plenty of food for everyone despite occasional fried cheese shortages. Skipping the ice cream served after the show would have been a good idea. But no, I had to have everything I was entitled to. Time to bust out the elastic waistband pants!

On Saturday, I met up with some girlfriends and went to the Chicago Gourmet Food and Wine Fair. Upon entry, everything inside is “free”, or more realistically, included in the price of the outrageous ticket. Hundreds of food, wine, and liquor tents awaiting our arrival with bite sized samples of everything. From pasta to pumpkin pie cheesecake, full glasses of reserve Cabernet and top shelf bourbon, the world was our oyster. Within minutes I had a Bloody Mary in hand and seafood gazpacho in my belly. Oh the decadence!

After several tastes of wine, we decided a more substantial food sampling would be a good idea and headed to the chef’s tent for a glimpse of Rick Bayless. About 10 minutes into my wait in the fish taco line, I witnessed a ridiculous display of inhumanity. Just as I approached the front of the line, a woman pushed her way through to the side of the table, snatched the last 2 tacos and RAN. The chef’s jaw dropped as he said “She did not just do that!” Oh yes she did. The line closed and we were sent away to wait in some other chef’s line. Don’t worry, I certainly didn’t go hungry. And of course I filled up my wine glass before I got into the new line.

What is it about free food? I’ve seen random leftover unidentified cake devoured at our office. Doesn’t anybody care where it came from? Anything put out on the table is hoarded immediately…crackers, donuts, sandwiches, even veggie trays. I’m not just talking about the poor young interns either. I’ve watched wealthy executives stash an extra bagel for the next day. Really, can’t you pony up $1.50 for a fresh one tomorrow? I could take out my whole office with arsenic laced cookies or ex-lax brownies if I was disgruntled. No questions asked.

Its time for society to go on a diet. And not just a regular old food diet, although with obesity rates that wouldn’t hurt anyone either, myself included. I think we need to go on a full-fledged temptation diet and learn some self-control. Just because something is free doesn’t mean you have to eat it! Put the plate down and step away from the buffet and I’ll try my best to resist the tray of homemade brownies in the office kitchen. Let’s all have a little more self respect and a little less hoarding greed.

cock-a-doodle endeavor…

So I’ve met someone…a local farmer named Paul. He calls me “Aims” and wants to meet me downtown every week! Don’t worry, this newcomer will in no way jeopardize my marriage. In fact, I think his presence in my life will greatly enhance my relationship.

You see, he wants to deliver freshly butchered chickens to my doorstep, with farm eggs too! Imagine my husband’s delight when he comes home to roasted chicken and potatoes. His adoration when his vegetarian wife, donning an apron, spoon feeds him Chicken Paprikash. I’ll dab a little chicken gravy behind my ears in lieu of perfume to set the mood. I think I’ve found a way to make Mark love me even more than he already does!

But seriously, I’ve taken the first step. I’ve made contact. Paul, the chicken farmer, is bringing me my first fresh chicken. He butchers around 100 free range fowl per week and then delivers them to existing customers. He offers a 15 chicken commitment, similar to a CSA (community supported agriculture). If he has the extra inventory, he will gladly arrange to meet you for a one time on demand delivery. He told me flat out that “If you don’t like the taste of my chickens, I don’t want you to have them.” Well ok then. Convert me!

I’m really excited about this prospect. I like the idea of supporting a local farmer. I love the idea of having fresh, free range, unprocessed chicken to cook for others and possibly even eat myself. Any which way, my culinary repertoire is going to expand in a way that will very much please my meat eating husband and future dinner guests. No longer will I need to subject my friends to the possibility of baked tofu or lentil loaf. I feel like chicken tonight, chicken tonight!