I don’t know why I’ve cooked items that aren’t vegetarian lately. Maybe it’s the cookbooks I’ve been getting. Both Michael Ruhlman and David Chang heavily use meat in their books, and it’s hard not to be inspired by the way they use ingredients. Or maybe it’s that at some point I had to acknowledge that this blog is more about the way I cook and eat than just about the meal plan that started it all.
I’m not a vegetarian myself, although I usually limit myself to meat once or twice a week if that, both for my own health as well as the well-being of the planet. I won’t get into my meat requirements (sustainable farming) in this post, but it’s something I’m careful with.
This was an organic, free-range, allowed to run around bird that I roasted when my friend was over for dinner, and I used the leftovers to make stock and eventually soup. I’m not a chicken soup person, really, but I didn’t want to waste, and I wanted to use some of the gorgeous beans from my recent Rancho Gordo shipment. Pair that with some leeks and some carrots and onion and soup was just begging to happen.
If there is a hint of chill in the air, soup is my idea meal. And it’s so versatile, you know? Brothy soups, creamy soups, stews – they all can fit a different mood and accommodate a person’s tastes. They can be tomato based, mushroom based, cream based… chili, minestrone, lentil. There are just so many options that I can’t imagine getting sick of them.
I also love leeks. They’re such a wonderful addition to both stock and soups themselves, and I even have this weird thing where I love washing and slicing them. Cleaning them is important — they can be dirty little suckers. The easiest way is to slice them lengthwise and rinse between the layers, removing any dirt. You can then slice them into manageable pieces.
Cream soups are actually my least favorite if I’m honest – at least the kind of cream soups you run into at cafes. But I do like a thicker and heartier soup, and reducing this a bit and adding just a scant ¼ cup of cream made it seem a little bit richer without making it a gloppy, heavy mess. Sometimes I’ll blend half of the soup, especially if there’s some yukon gold potato involved – it’s a creamier potato to blend.
With this one, I ended up doing a slight riff on a chicken with wild rice soup, but I used heirloom beans rather than rice, and snuck in a few more items. It was satisfying and hearty without feeling heavy, and a great way to use up the rest of a roasted chicken. Store-bought chicken stock has absolutely nothing on the stuff you can make at home in just a hour or more. It has such a clean flavor, and that carries the whole way through to the soup in your bowl.
I’m not only eating soup, I swear. I also made pumpkin curry as well as lasagna. But I admit that until spring shows up, soup will continue to pop up on this blog. My next one in line is a curried red lentil soup, which I can’t wait to share with you.
chicken and heirloom bean soup
5-6 c. chicken stock (recipe below)
2 c. cooked chicken (reserved from roasted bird or freshly cooked)
1 1/2 c. dried heirloom beans, soaked 4-5 hours
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 c. leeks, chopped
1 c. carrots, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 c. shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh sage, minced
scant 1/4 c. cream (optional)
cook the beans until tender. if making stock, this can be done at the same time — both take 1 - 1 1/2 hours. drain beans from the cooking liquid and set aside.
heat butter and olive oil in a soup pot or deep cast iron pot. add carrot, leek, onion, garlic and shallot and sauté for about 5 minutes on medium high heat, seasoning with salt. add the white wine to deglaze if anything is sticking to the pan, and add the stock and chicken. Cook at a low boil for 25 minutes to allow vegetables to soften. Add the mushrooms, beans, mustard, vinegar, cream and sage, and allow to cook down further, reducing until you reach the desired thickness, and adjusting salt to taste. If you would like to thicken the soup further, you can mix a bit of broth with 1-2 tbsp of corn starch and return it to the soup, cooking for an additional 5 minutes to thicken.
easy chicken stock:
1 tbsp olive oil
bones from roasted chicken, or 2 chicken thighs
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
fresh thyme sprigs
7-8 c. water
**additional optional vegetables include fennel bulb, leek, parsnips, etc.
lightly sauté the vegetables in a stock pot. season with salt, add the bay leaf and thyme and chicken and cover with water. Keep at a low simmer for at least an hour and up to 8 hours. the pot should be too warm to hold your hand to, but the surface should be still. strain vegetables, and reserve stock.