Chicken Soup for the Anti-Chef

Making soup is a good way to feel fancy in the kitchen. Since soup just combines your talents with individual ingredients into one simmering stockpot, it’s a fun thing to start improvising.

Yesterday I had a busy afternoon trekking around Brooklyn while a sick J stayed in bed, which meant I needed a recipe that would produce soup with chicken in it within a half hour. My favorite chicken soup recipe called for things I didn’t have—nor want to purchase for that matter, tasty corn on the cob doesn’t appear till summertime—and at least two-hour timeframe. Forget that.

So, leap of faith: I know how to cook potatoes and I know how to cook chicken. And I understand some basic principles of how a soup broth cooks ingredients. Time to come up with my very first recipe (a major accomplishment, btw.) Oh, and I didn’t take pictures. We were too hungry for that nonsense. Maybe next time.

Fancy Chicken Soup (inspired by Ajiaco Bogotano)

Chop up 4 stalks of celery and set aside.

Peel and cube 2 medium potatoes (any kind is fine, bakers, boilers, etc.) Throw them in a stockpot with enough water to cover them by an inch or so. Bring to a boil. Boil for 3-4 min and drain potatoes in a colander. (Yes, they’re supposed to still be really firm, since the broth will finish them up.)

While potatoes are coming to a boil, slice 1 medium onion (yellow or white) and throw it in a skillet over med-low heat with a few sloshes of olive oil. Remove any excess fat from and slice 3 boneless chicken thighs into fajita-sized strips. Slice perpendicular to the “grain” of the meat and use a sharp, non-serrated knife. Toss chicken in the skillet with the onions, add about 1 tablespoon of cumin (or coriander if you have it) and salt and pepper to taste.

While the chicken and onions are sauteeing, pour a 32 oz. box of your favorite chicken broth into stockpot. Yes, you can and might consider making your own broth since it’s so very easy, but planning that far ahead just wasn’t possible (and I’m not going to beat myself up over it.) Plus, I’m not impressed with the standard bullion cube; like, why on earth they put all that disgusting stuff in it (read the label sometime.) Anyhow, back to the recipe…

Dump the potatoes into the broth and turn the heat to medium; I also added a bay leaf for good measure. Remove chicken and onions (the chicken won’t be fully cooked at this point, it’s okay) from heat and pour the mixture in the same colander where the potatoes just were. This removes any excess oil.

When the potatoes and broth start to boil, drop in the diced celery and chicken/onion mixture in the stockpot. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until after you’ve had time to clean up your chopping mess and set the table. 

Dice half an avocado. Serve soup with a dollop of sour cream (or creme fresh) and a few chunks of avocado.

I’m stapling a disclaimer to this post: There’s no one right way to do things in the kitchen, and it seems really odd for me to even post a recipe in the first place. I’m not all that fancy, and for those of you who are, do as you please when it comes to kitchen cookery. Modify this or use one of the other gajilion chicken soup recipes out there to suit your soup needs. This recipe worked for me and made a surprisingly delicious soup as painlessly as I could’ve imagined.

As we slurped up chunks of non-mushy potatoes and celery that still had some oomph, my triumph soared. I made a soup for the first time that maintained the integrity of the ingredients! Cooking’s not all that hard, when you look at it from an ingredient-by-ingredient standpoint.

I told J that she doesn’t have to use sickness to get me to cook more. Hell, I’d just been injected with a hefty dose of badass chef attitude, I might cook again next week when there’s no phlegm involved.