Archive for January, 2011

Chicken Soup: In Hot Pursuit

One of my favorite dishes from my childhood was Mom’s chicken soup. The chicken was plump and flavorful. The noodles were thick. The veggies were always just right. Years ago, before I got religion about food, I emailed Mom for her recipe so I could reproduce the chickeny goodness in my own kitchen. I’ll paraphrase the gist of her response, since the email is long gone:

First you go outside and catch a chicken. If you can’t catch it, get one of the kids to catch it for you. Pluck it, clean it up and get some stock going with the bird and some vegetables. Then make some pasta dough and pull out your pasta roller. Make some noodles and hang them on backs of chairs all over the house to dry. When your stock is done, cut up the chicken and put it back in the strained stock. Chop up some veggies from the garden and put them in too. When everything’s about done, toss in some of your noodles. And there you go. Now you know why it was so good!

That was enough to put chicken soup out of my mind for a long time. But now that I’m in a place to actually consider doing all of that, I think about it often. The things Mom went through to feed all of us good, nutritious food!

Dreary Monday in background. Happy flowers and a little wooden reindeer Test Subject Bill made me brighten the day!

While on this dreary January Monday there were no chickens outside my door and no time to make pasta, I did have leftover roast chicken from Nature’s Harmony Farm and some fresh chicken stock that had spent a full day simmering away in the crock pot. I cut up some onions, organic carrots and celery and let them sweat away in a good helping of Kerrygold Garlic & Herb butter. (Generally I like to make anything that has more than two ingredients, but this is such an excellent soup flavoring base…) I had some organic potatoes leftover from the graduation party so I chopped them up and tossed them in as well, added some sweet corn I froze last summer from the farmer’s market, then stirred in my lovely stock.

I love inhaling chicken stock. It smells so honest. Homemade stock says love. It says you cannot get this in a drive through. When I think of slow food, stock is one of the first things that comes to mind. I used to make a speedy broth out of How to Cook Everything until I discovered this roast chicken and roast chicken stock recipe from Nourished Kitchen. The broth was good enough….the roast stock is INCREDIBLE. I can (and do) just drink it out of a mug when it gets done.

Sunshine in a bowl.

My soup’s final touch – chopped leftover roast chicken – went in the pot and got heated through. Even my suburban version takes some time. Although someday I hope to make it the way Mom did, by stepping outside and chasing down my own bird.

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On January 8, 2011 I graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Gwinnett College with a degree in Business Administration, Finance concentration. To celebrate the event, I catered my own graduation party last Saturday night. As much as possible, I used local and/or organic food. It was a lot of work, but at the end of it all my exhausted foodie spirit was satisfied! Various food porn photos from the event are below! Click on the pics for the larger version.

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Since filling my freezer with deer meat generously donated to KKF from my new best friend, I have been busy conjuring and inventing and experimenting with venison. After my initial kung faux pas disappointment, I had success with venison chili, then scored a big win with the venison fried steak using some of the chuck steaks. Yesterday I made venison and bull burger meatballs using the ground deer and generally following this recipe from Allrecipes.com that turned out exceptionally well (more on that later).

This morning I knew I needed an easy dinner so I pulled a venison rump roast out of the freezer. After pawing around in the fridge and counter to see what else I had, I ended up with the following in the slow cooker:

½ medium sweet onion, sliced

½ medium fennel head, sliced

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 sprigs winter savory

3 small to medium sweet potatoes

About a 2 ½ lb. venison rump roast

A few slices of fatty bacon

Raw roast in the crock

I layered the onion and fennel on the bottom of the crock, laid the herbs on top, then the roast. I fit the potatoes in around the roast and laid the slices of fatty bacon on top of the roast. I did that for several reasons. First, my crock roasts often get a little dried out on top so I figured the bacon would help keep it moist. Second, it would flavor the roast as the bacon fat melted and rolled down the side. Finally, what gets WORSE when you put bacon on it??

I salted and peppered my creation and then poured about a third of a cup of beef stock that I made yesterday into the bottom. I let it rip for 7 hours on low, figuring at the end of the day I’d have a roast and some spuds.

Plate o' Joy

I have three words to describe what came out of the crock. Uh. Maze. Ing. The roast was tender and flavorful and not at all gamey. The bacon was slightly crisped on top. Wow. Even Test Subject Bill, who is usually indifferent to slow cooker food, was quite impressed and went back for seconds.

Observations: my experience with fennel is very limited. The narrow, round part of the fennel that goes up to the top came out tough and woody. Maybe you’re just not supposed to eat that part. Anyway, I know I won’t do it again. Also, I was too stingy with the salt. Bill is picky about salt levels so I typically season things light; this, however, tasted great with more salt. (Healthy sea salt, not iodized table salt. I use that for de-icing the sidewalk.)

Not only was this roast delicious, but with the pastured bacon that I cured and smoked myself, a deer that was running around in the Georgia countryside just weeks ago, and locally raised sweet potatoes and herbs from my CSA, it was nourishing for our bodies and our local community. That’s something that just doesn’t come with a bar code.

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