Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chicken Soup Redux...and how to make bread crumbs & to poach an egg

Awhile back, I shared a wonderful version of homemade chicken soup on G+ which was brimming with assorted scraps from making pasta, succulent morsels of meat, wilted arugula, toasted breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and the pièce de résistance, a poached egg. That assemblage looked so pretty and made such an impression on me, I vowed the next time I made chicken stock I would have a go at this recipe.

Once the stock was reduced to make it exceptionally rich in taste, its consistency became that of soft jello. Thirty-two fluid ounces of stock suffices for two ample servings.

Since I use two whole chickens with which to make the stock, it was easy to reserve some nice white meat close to the bones.

The meat will be marked with some brown where it touched the bone. Using my fingers, I shredded about sixteen fluid ounces into small bits.

Since I do not make my own pasta--not yet that is--I used the inevitable and plentiful scraps left over when using packaged tagliatelle nests.

There is still spinach which was harvested from the potager in late spring in the freezer so I substituted that for arugula. Other possibilities would be escarole or kale or even the small leaves sometimes found on broccoli. A tablespoon of greens per serving is all that is required to spruce up both appearance and taste.

I can't remember the last time I bought a box of breadcrumbs. Not only will no bread go to waste if you make your own, they taste much better when you do!

Choosing French bread for the crumbs, I pulled out the tender part, leaving the crusts which were eventually slathered with butter and jam. Yum! Tear the bread in small pieces and process into small crumbs. Another method is grating a large hunk of bread (choose a coarser grater and/or the bread can be frozen).  (Or the crumbing part can be omitted and small pieces of bread toasted in the oven can be placed in a paper/plastic bag/between two tea towels and gently crushed with a rolling pin.)

Spread the crumbs evenly on a baking pan and put in a 250 degrees F/120 degrees C oven for about twenty minutes or until they are dry and crunchy, with a golden tinge. If a toastier crumb is desired, then bake a bit longer. They can be stored in an air-tight container for many months or in the fridge/freezer if the ambient environment is very humid.

Grate finely some Parmesan, about a heaping tablespoon for each serving.

Mix the cheese with the crumbs in even proportions and reserve.

Never having poached eggs before, I suspected I would have a little difficulty--the first one was overdone, the second was underdone, and the third was Goldilocks approved, that is, just right.

Crack carefully a very fresh egg without breaking the yolk into a small cup. My method is to rap gently an egg against the flat of the kitchen counter and while holding the still intact egg over a cup, I pull apart the egg at its slightly smashed part. To test an egg's freshness, submerge in water and if really fresh the eggs will lie sideways at the bottom.  Less fresh eggs will be more or less vertical and bad eggs will rise to the top.

Though adding a dash of vinegar to the simmering water to help the egg white to coagulate is often recommended, my personal preference is to omit it as the slight vinegary taste can be off-putting to some. In a shallow saucepan or a deep skillet, heat water just under boiling--many tiny bubbles will rise from the bottom with no large bubbles breaking the surface, if water is boiling bring it back to simmer by reducing heat--then  place the side of the cup right on the surface of the water and slip the egg into the water. Put on lid, turn off the heat but keep the pot on the burner, and let sit for four minutes until the egg white is cooked. Scoop out the egg with a slotted spoon. Any raggedly edges can be trimmed off. Repeat with remaining eggs, keeping already poached eggs in a covered, warmed dish. If you have an egg poacher, I envy you. However poached eggs are lovely and worth the effort.

When close to serving, simmer several handfuls of pasta in the stock for about ten minutes until very tender--pasta is gorgeous when engorged with stock. When pasta is done, add chicken and gently heat for a minute or two. To assemble, put the greens on the bottom of a small bowl and pour on the stock with noodles and chicken.

Float a poached egg on top and sprinkle with Parmesan/breadcrumb mixture. As I dug into this comforting, satisfying, and delectable soup, I was whimsically transported into a cozy kitchen somewhere in Italy where my kindly hosts asked if I wanted seconds. Here's hoping they will let me have thirds!

In the potager, the weather, though mild, has been pretty gloomy with lots of overcast skies.

A wood pigeon all by its lonesome

Recently as I was making my late afternoon rounds, I noted a decided chill in the air and knew it was finally time to make one last rose bouquet. Not only does it get dark earlier, it seems to get dark faster. Before I knew it, I could hardly see but the thorns let me know exactly where they were!

Pink Queen Elizabeth and  red & white stripped Ferdinand Pichard roses

My focus on preparing beds for early spring planting has been mostly thwarted by persistent rain which makes our silty soil impossible to till. Instead I am hanging out in my potting room in the sous sol, rummaging about, clearing up any mess, washing used plants pots, sharpening tools, pre-ordering my preferred varieties of potatoes before they get all sold out, and smelling the roses!

With a clean work table and some spare time, I now can fool around with my water colours!

À la prochaine!