It is ten degrees outside. I repeat, ten. Last year this time, I was enjoying my 70 degree January on Oahu. Oh how things have changed!
But winter should be winter, complete with the cold, sweaters, scarves, hot chocolate by the fire, watching snow fall, eating a bowl of steamy soup…mmm… Last year, I dreamed about being able to cook soup and actually enjoying it, but the hot weather and air conditioned less kitchen and dining room made the idea seem, well, unwise.
So back to my ten degrees here… I’m new to Philly, but I heard that this snowstorm filled winter is a bit unusual here. Every day seems like a soup & hot chocolate day! No, I’m not making soup every day this week…maybe just two days :).
Cooking makes me nostalgic. I was spoiled with good food, and I grew up around a lot of aunts and uncles coming over to grandma’s house for meals every Saturday or Sunday. Family time was different people taking turns cooking and everyone eating together. I always looked forward to those gatherings.
My childhood memories of grocery shopping are very very different from the ones my son will one day recall. He will remember being pushed in a cart going down aisles of refrigerators and freezers, seeing meats and seafood neatly showcased behind glass cases, and being mesmerized by the frequent “rain showers” that keep the vegetables “fresh.” And mine? Outdoor grocery markets filled with stations managed by individual farmers, rows and rows of fresh produce and vegetables, and chickens, yes, live, killed and feathers plucked right in front of your eyes, and shrimp and fish still jumping in that grocery bag in your hand as you walk home, which I avoided touching at all cost–these are the things that I remember when I think back to my growing up years in Shanghai.
I had never eaten soup out of a can until I moved to South Carolina in high school. Even though it’s been thirteen years, I’ve never gotten used to buying and eating a lot of canned products. So, I don’t usually consider canned veggies real veggies :). A handful of fresh green beans just looks so much more appealing!
Now that I have a little bit more time, and more access to–I live close to many Amish farms– local grown vegetables, fruits, and meats, I’ve started to develop a different view on eating. I don’t want to cut corners when I can make better food from fresh ingredients.
For instance, this week I needed chicken broth for some of the dishes I planned to make, so I made my own. For some of you, that’s probably the norm, but honestly, after following a busy and very curious 7 month old boy around all day, the last thing I want to do is cook! But as soon as I taste the finished product, I remember why I made the effort. After all, it’s a pretty simple broth recipe.
Yes, just onions and garlic. That simple? No other vegetables? Yep. Trust me, it’s good.
I made this on Monday night, and I then used the broth to make chicken noodle soup for dinner.
Simple Chicken Broth
4 bone in & skin on chicken thighs
4 cloves of garlic (more or less, up to you)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 bay leaves
a dash of salt & pepper (the broth shouldn’t be too salty)
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot at medium high heat. After 2-3 minutes, add the garlic and onions, then make room and place the chicken thighs in the pot, skin side down. Cook for about 7-8 minutes, and flip them over and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Add bay leaves, and approximately 2.5 quarts of water to the pot. Bring to a boil then turn it down to low and cook for 45 minutes, or longer if you wish.
After about 45 minutes, or sooner if you are in a hurry, pour everything through a strainer to get a cleaner broth. Set aside the chicken to shred later, and discard the cooked onions, garlic, and bay leaves.
When the chicken thighs are cooled, shred the meat, and you can use it for soups, chicken salad, or whatever else you fancy.
Here’s what I did for the chicken noodle soup:
Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain then set aside
Chop up 1/3 cup of celery and 1/3 cup of carrots
Cook the vegetables in the prepared broth (I used about 4 cups for two people) for 15 minutes
Add the noodles & shredded chicken, add salt & pepper to taste, then serve.