Tag Archives: Soup

Cream of Broccoli and Sorrel Soup

This afternoon, I looked at the big heads of broccoli, abundant sorrel, numerous zucchini, and heads of butter lettuce in my raised beds and thought, “How the hell am I going to eat all this?” I didn’t expect to reach this state of affairs quite so early in the summer. I am barely keeping up with the lettuce, which the rising temperatures are soon going to fry.

The pleasant challenge of vegetable gardening, however, is to find congruent flavors in disperate plants. Today, I decided to pair broccoli with sorrel in a cream soup. The lemon in sorrel, I thought, would complement the broccoli. And I turned out to be right. But first I looked for a model recipe to adapt. For the first time in a while, my cookbooks let me down. Not even ol’Basics, by Ludkin and Russo, had a cream of broccoli recipe. Time to wing it.

I used what I had in my fridge:

About 2 ounces of smoked bacon, cut into lardons

1 yellow onion

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

6 cups chicken stock

Water as needed

2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets and the stemmed trimmed of touch outside skin

a bunch of sorrel with stems removed and leaves roughly chopped

1/2 cup cream

1 ounce soft goat cheese (optional)

In a large 5- or 7-quart pot, fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel. Nibble at them, if you want a velvety smooth soup. Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté a few minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and continue to sauté for a few minutes. Add broccoli and sorrel. Stir to coat with fat. Add the stock and enough water to cover all the vegetables. Bring to steady boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the broccoli is soft.

Before pureeing in a blender, let the soup cool a bit. When the stock is cooler, puree the stock and vegetables in a blender in several batches. Do not fill your blender jar more than a third of the way up. Pour the pureed soup into a small soup pot. When the entire soup has been pureed and poured into the soup pot, pour in cream and stir to blend. Adjust seasoning at this point. Be careful not to add too much, since the smoked bacon will contribute salt to the soup. Having said that, however, try and adjust the seasoning just so. Salt will enhance ever so slightly the flavor of the bacon in the background.

I’ve had this soup hot for dinner and, the next day, cold. At dinner, I crumbled a little soft goat cheese on top before I took my first spoonful.

Judy Rodgers’s Asparagus & Rice Soup with Pancetta and Black Pepper

from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, p. 166.

The warm weather is fast approaching, which means I have to get busy and make chicken stock. When the heat sets in, the last thing my house needs is a big simmering pot exuding heat throughout the bottom floor. I should, therefore, be hoarding the frozen blocks of poultry essence in the freezer, but — as she has so often in the past — Sherry drew my attention to a recipe that I had overlooked.

In this one, Judy Rodgers has devised a near perfect recipe. To describe it as a near perfect blend of ingredients would be accurate but trite. I don’t know what to say that would make that less of a cliché. Nevertheless, there are one or two aspects of this soup that need practice. Otherwise, just leave it alone. ‘Tis a gift to be simple, as they say. I was tempted to add parmesan. No. Or at least, not before you’ve made 40,000 times and are sick of it. I want to make it again to figure out what wine would go with it. Rodgers recommends a riesling. I read that too late to chill one. That is the main challenge. Nothing or practically nothing goes with asparagus. Here, the basic oeno-incompatibility is complicated by its juxtaposition with the softened onion, the pancetta, the stock… and so on.

Oh, just make it and figure it out for yourself!

Judy’s prescription:

Makes about 4 cups soup.

6 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups diced yellow onions (8 oz)


1/4 cup white rice

About 3 1/2 cups Chicken Stock

1/2 cup water

About 8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed

3 to 4 oz pancetta, finely minced (1/2 to 2/3 cup)

Freshly cracked black pepper

Warm about 1/4 cup of the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, stirring regularly. don’t let the onions color; they should “sweat” their moisture and then become tender and translucent in about 10 minutes. Add the rice, chicken stock, and water and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly and cook until the rice in nutty-tender, probably 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the rice you choose. The broth will be cloudy and should taste sweet from the onions. Turn off the heat.

While the rice is cooking, sliver the asparagus, slicing it on an angle about 1/3 inch thick. Don’t worry if th eslivers vary a little in thickness; the irregularity will guarantee uneven cooking and a pleasantly varied texture. You should get about 2 cups.

Warm the remaining 2 Tbl oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and asparagus slivers and stir once to coat, then spread them out and leave to sizzle utnil those at the edges of the pan begin to color. Toss or stir once, then leave to color again. Repeat a few time until the mass has softened and shrunk by about one-third.

Scrape the pancetta and asparagus into the broth and bring to a boil. Add lots of pepper. Boil for about 1 minute. This soup is best when served promptly, while all the flavors are still bold and the texture varied.

My response: Amen to that!

Nothing I’m about to say here should be taken as a corrective. I don’t even mean my suggestions as an enhancement. I merely want to relay my experience.

I prepared all the ingredients at once, ahead of schedule. As usual, I used kosher salt. Basmati rice was all I had on hand, but I won’t use that again. I want something a tad firmer.

When it came time to tip — as Nigel would say — the pancetta and asparagus into the pan, Michael Chiarello’s wise words came back to me. Just let it all sit and crisp up. If you adjust the high not too high and not too low, you shouldn’t have to touch it for at least five minutes. Stirring is what mucks up the crisping endeavor. Even I, after all the advice I’ve given myself, tend to stir too early. In this instance, it turned out fine. But don’t stir until you absolutely feel you have to. I would not stir the asparagus and pancetta around more than three times.

Black pepper, yes. But I sneezed and choked a little on the amount I grated over it. I must find the proper amount.

Final thoughts:

Fat is vastly underrated. Fat is savory-sweet. You have to render the fat of the pancetta in order to understand how all the ingredients come together. How simple can a soup get?

Nigel Slater’s Onion Soup without Tears

img_9769.jpgfrom The Kitchen Diaries, p. 16-17.

At the end of the year, I put post-it notes in The Kitchen Diaries on the pages at the head of each month that contain lists of that month’s recipes. I’m starting the book all over again. Too many recipes to take in on the first circuit. What I sampled makes me want to keep the book around for the next decade. But this second time around I intend to reduce his recipes to appropriate proportions for one serving (ok, maybe two for leftovers). His recipes lend themselves easily to adaptation. Tonight I felt the urge for something warm and comforting. Onion soup — especially now that I am recently returned from Paris — seemed to fit the bill.

Here are his free-form directions:

onions — 4 medium

butter — 40 g

a glass of white wine

vegetable stock — 1.5 litres

a small French loaf

grated Gruyère, Emmental or other good melting cheese — 150 g

Set the oven to 200 C [about 400 F]. Peel the onions and cut them in half from tip to root, then lay them in a roasting tin and add the butter, salt and some pepper. Roast until they are tender and soft, and toasted dark brown here and there. You might have to turn them now and again.

Cut the onions into thick segments. Put them in a saucepan with the wine and bring to the boil. Let the wine bubble until it almost disappears (you just want the flavour, not the alcohol), then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about twenty minutes.

Just before you want to serve the soup, make the cheese croutes. Cut the loaf into thin slices and toast lightly on one side under a hot grill. turn them over and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Get the coup hot, ladle it into bowls and float the cheese croutes on top. Place the bowls under a hot grill and leave until the cheese melts. Eat immediately, whilst the cheese is still stringy and molten.

Enough for 4.

My version:

Enough for 4 my arse. Nigel is being unusually parsimonious. Most of his recipes will feed twice as many people as his servings call for. Here, he underestimates his portions. I halved most of the ingredients and ate most of it. My version goes like this.

2 big onions, halved in the way Nigel prescribes

about 1 T butter

1 cup white wine

stock — preferably beef stock, but I used 2-3 cups of my own veal stock, which worked very well

two thin slices of boule-type bread — I used two slices of my own

about 2 ounces of grated Emmental

I cut the onions as he prescribed and placed the four halves, cut side down, on a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. I placed a little bit of the T of butter under each halve. Then I sprinkled kosher salt and grated some pepper over the halves. The onions took about 30-40 mins to reach the point where I thought they were soft enough, caramelized enough, and sweet enough to enhance the soup. Once I transferred them to a cutting board, I trimmed the root ends and sliced them with the grain into not especially thick segments, as Nigel recommends. Into the saucepan with a full complement of one cup of wine they went, where they simmered furiously until the wine was nearly but not entirely boiled away. At that point, I added the nearly 3 cups of veal stock I had defrosted yesterday. I brought it all to a boil and set the timer for 20 mins.

In the meantime, I grated a bit of Emmentaler and cut two slices of bread. While the bread toasted until the grill (as Nigel the Brit calls his broiler), I quickly grated the cheese. I removed the bread from the oven, poured a generous but not piggish helping of soup into a serving bowl, placed the bread, toasted side down, on the surface of the soup, and strewed the cheese over the top. Under the broiler for less than five minutes and it came out perfect.

Last thoughts:

I was happy with how the soup came out. Still, I wish the flavor had been more intense. I think everything about onion soup depends on the intensity of the stock. Somehow, I can’t imagine the soup working well with vegetable stock, but I might be missing the point. It may be a point I’m willing to miss. This recipe motivates me to work on my veal stock recipe.

Sherry’s Basic Vegetable Soup

I sometimes use recipes for soups but mostly I create one from what’s on hand that day in my fridge and pantry. A good but basic, no-frills soup starts with the primary soup vegetables — onions, carrots, celery, leeks — plus a suitable legume like flagolets or any of the white beans. The other important ingredient is, of course, homemade chicken stock (see Sally’s post on stockmaking). This soup comes out best when made with a rich tasting broth, one that’s been reduced a bit to deepen its flavor.

When I make this soup I don’t usually pay attention to quanities, so bear with me as I try to put this into a recipe form. The important part about quanities here is not so much how many leeks or carrots, but the ratio of vegetables to stock. I puree about 2/3 of the vegetables at the end, so if I start with too much stock the soup ends up being thin. It’s supposed to be thick and chunky, kind of like a chowder, only made with vegetables.


1 to 2 cups dried flagolets or white beans, soaked overnight, then cooked until almost done (I add generous salt at this point and let them sit while preparing the vegetables)
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 to 6 stalks of celery, diced (you can peel the outer stalks if you want)
1 or 2 onions, chopped
3 to 5 leeks, properly clean, 3/4 of green top discarded (use for stock), then sliced

Enough stock to cover vegetables and beans by about 2 inches.
Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Cook the vegetables and legumes in the stock until tender, about half an hour. I am constantly tasting the broth. After the vegetables have cooked for a while the broth should begin to pick up some of their taste; add salt as needed, and if the broth taste a bit thin, let the soup cook without the cover. Let soup cool a bit then puree anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3 of the vegetables in a food processor. Return the puree to the soup, add parsley, freshly ground pepper, and check for salt.

So that’s the basic soup. But you don’t have to stop there. If I’ve just made a pot of chicken stock, I’ll often add cooked chicken to the soup, which makes it more substantial. I sometimes add a potato or two, and sometimes I’ll add some sort of leafy green, like kale or chard. With a good bread (see post on slow-rise bread), a simple green salad, and a glass of red wine, this makes a very good weeknight supper!

Patricia Wells’s Winter Pistou

from Patrice Wells At Home in Provence

Fall should be here, but I tend to cook ahead of the season. Tonight’s meal is a case in point. I wanted to make a hearty autumnal soup to stand up to a hearty piece of homemade whole-grain bread and a glass of wine. Even though the crisp air doesn’t yet last past 9 am, I’m ready for the fall and it hasn’t arrived. So, I plough ahead anyway in my own private cooking calendar.

This soup-like vegetable stew is not the recipe I had in mind when I thought of introducing Patricia Wells into this blog. I was waiting for a chance to execute her Seven-Hour Leg of Lamb or her Spaghetti “Risotto”, two recipes that demand revisiting again and again. But I wanted it to be a fall day today. It wasn’t.

Yesterday I set up a batch of the Slow-Rise Bread, according to Ann’s whole wheat specifications. The last of the potted basil plant on my deck went into the pistou. I did the shopping for vegetables and beans. Today, after I finished the puzzle, read the paper, painted more of the trim in my front room, and attended to some work, I made this recipe and took care of the bread. I think both came out well. Like Ann’s bread, the jump on this boule wasn’t as high as the all-white flour batch, but it turned out really well. I make a really wet, sticky dough.

As for Patricia Wells, I’ll save my thoughts for the next time I do one of her reliable, delicious, and utterly simple recipes. She never disappoints.

Here’s what she recommends:

Winter Pistou

8 oz (250g) dried small white beans
8 oz (250g) dried cranberry (borlotti) beans
½ (12.5 cl) extra-virgin olive oil
bouquet garni: several fresh bay leaves and several sprigs of summer savory and thyme, tied securely with twine
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, cut into thin rings
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into thin half-moons
1 clove plump, fresh garlic, peeled and quartered lengthwise
sea salt to taste
1 lb (500g) Hubbard or pumpkin squash, seeded, peeled, and diced
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick half-moons
1 lb (500g) potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 oz (250g) turnips or parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 small can (14 ½ oz; 400g) imported whole plum tomatoes in juice
¾ cup (60g) angel’s hair pasta, broken into small pieces
1 recipe Pistou
1 cum (4 oz; 125g) freshly grated imported Gruyère cheese

1. Rinse the white beans and cranberry beans, picking over them to remove any pebbles. Place the beans in a large bowl, add boiling water to cover, and set aside for 1 hour. Drain the beans, discarding the water.

2. In a 10-quart (10-litre) stockpot, combine the oil, bouquet garni, leeks, onions, garlic, and 1 tsp of salt. Soften over medium heat, stirring regularly for about 10 mins. Add the drained beans, stir to blend, and cook for 2 mins more. Add the squash, carrots, potatoes, turnips and tomatoes; stir to blend, and cook 5 mins more. Add 5 quarts (5 l) of water, season with salt, and simmer gently, uncovered, until the beans are tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours. (Cooking time will vary according to the freshness of the beans.) Taste for seasoning. Add the pasta and boil until the pasta is cooked, about 10 mins more. Taste for seasoning.

3. Serve the soup very hot, passing the Pistou or Aïoli and cheese to blend into the soup.

Six to eight servings.
Wine: A Provençal rosé.


4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
fine sea salt to taste
2 cups (50 cl) loosely packed fresh basil leaves and flowers
½ cup (12.5 cl) extra-virgin olive oil

Place the minced garlic salt and basil in the bowl of a food processor and process to a paste. Add the oil and process again. Taste for seasoning. Stir again before serving.

3. transfer to a small bowl. Serve immediately. The sauce can be stored, covered and refrigerated, for 1 day, for frozen for up to 6 months. Bring to room temperature and stir again before serving.

My version:

I followed her recipe pretty closely, except that I soaked the beans overnight, cooked them for about an hour, drained them, and then proceeded as she recommended. At no point did it cook for 2 hours. The next time I make this soup, I’ll try it her way. My reservation has nothing to do with the recipe. I can’t count on the freshness of the dried beans I buy. It’s often happened that I’ll attempt to cook beans as she recommends here only to find that they are old beans and take ages to soften. I have learned never to add salt to beans until they are soft. Experience has shown me that salt added to beans slows down the cooking process.

Instead of a broth based entirely on water, I used one quart of my own chicken broth, which deepened the flavor.

I made one other innovation. To make the bouquet garnis, I cut off a large piece of an outer skin of a leek. I put thyme and the bay leaves on the leek, folded it into a packet, and tied it with kitchen twine. I believe I learned that from Keller, but I could be wrong.

Last Thoughts:

As I ladled out the remaining soup into containers to go into the freezer, I thought, “This is a hell of a lot of soup.” Halving the proportions might work. The frozen leftovers will undoubtedly last me well into the winter.

Next time, I may substitute Parmigiano Reggiano for the Gruyère. Perhaps I’ll even add a chunk of cheese rind. The Gruyère was very subtle. In the winter, I think I’d like to taste the cheese more. It will give me the illusion of warmth on a winter’s day — in this far too warm climate.

Ruth Reichl’s White Bean and Kale Soup

White Bean Kale Soup.jpgfrom The Gourmet Cookbook

I’m on first a name basis with Ruth Reichl. She’s just plain “Ruth” like Marcella Hazen is “Marcella,” “Nigel” is Nigel Slater, “Nigella” is to other people Nigella Lawson, and “Julia” is, well, you know. There aren’t many food writers who succeed so well that they lose their last names in common parlance. But Ruth is one of them.

I only started to pay attention to Ruth after I had read her first memoir, Tender at the Bone. Not long after that, I really sat up and took notice when she transformed Gourmet into a magazine that was actually usable and not simply food porn, to be bought only for the photos. Her inclusive, sensible attitude towards preparing food and entertaining appealed to me.

When she edited and published The Gourmet Cookbook, I took a chance. Wow, did it pay off. I’m slowly working my way through the volume and have found very few clinkers. Not all of them make me scream with joy, but it contains a greater percentage of repeat recipes than practically any other book I own — with the exception of Dorrie Greenspan, whose genius I still have yet to extol.

Only in recent months have I started to feel my gorge rising, as they used to say. There’s something about Gourmet Magazine that now makes me squeamish. Has it made what was once barely a national fascination with good food into a fetish? Recent months, when I look through the magazine, I’ve wanted to scream, Enough already!

But this soup is this year’s — and probably next’s — Favorite Soup of the Year in my house.

Here’s how it appears in the book:

1 lb dried white beans, such as great northern, cannellini, or navy, picked over and rinsed
2 T olive oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 cups (40 oz) chicken stock
8 cups water
1 (3-by-2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb smoked sausage, such as kielbasa, sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and tough center ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
2 tsp salt

Soak beans in water to cover by 2 inches, refrigerated, for at least 8 hours; drain

Heat oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Add beans, stock, 4 cups water, cheese rind, rosemary, bay leaf, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 mins.

Meanwhile, brown sausage, if using, in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring often. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Stir carrots into soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, remaining 4 cups water, and salt, bring to a simmer, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with additional salt, if necessary, and pepper. Discard bay leaf.

My version:

I follow this recipe pretty closely, but have learned a few things. First, if the beans don’t soften up after 45 minutes, the beans are either too old or I added salt to the beans while they’re cooking. There is a reason why the recipe calls for the addition of salt only in the last stage. Salt inhibits the absorption of water in beans like it does in rice (Marcella first taught me that).

Second, I once tried a spicy sausage in this soup. It ruined it. When I can’t find good organic kielbasa nearby, I substitute organic or freshly made bratwurst.

Third, 8 carrots is far too many. I love cooked carrots, but 6 or 7 are plenty.

Fourth, stirring occasionally as the recipe calls for is not simply to mix together the flavors, but also to scrape some of the melted parmesan off the bottom of the pot.

Fifth, the quality of the Parmigiano Reggiano matters. The better the quality, the creamier the rind will melt. Using cheese rinds is a great device for other thick soups.

Last Thoughts:

The quantity is enormous. I’ve got enough soup to last into winter. It freezes well. But a couple days in the fridge is a big boost to its richness. Make it ahead.

Thomas Keller’s Chicken Broth

from The French Laundry Cookbook

Thomas Keller, of the French Laundry and Per Se, can do very little that is wrong, in my opinion. Yes, the ambience of the French Laundry in Napa resembles a little too closely the reverential hush of a church. There’s no question that the price of a dinner will equal what a well-to-do shopper spends on groceries in a month. And it’s not just that we ought to have a place in world for experiences like dining in one of his establishments (even if we wish more people could partake of them just once).

I mean, Keller knows how to cook better than anyone whose food I’ve ever tasted and he knows how to teach. Contrary to my expectations, his heavy, forbidding cookbooks contain much more than unrealistic recipes for home-cooking. Let’s face it, I will never make “Oysters and Pearls” well enough to justify plunking out that big a chunk of my weekly budget. His recipes make for entertaining reading, like travel writing about destinations I know I’ll never visit. I let Keller be my culinary sherpa and try to apply his technique on familiar terrain closer to home.

I’ve learned more about cooking from about ten pages in The French Laundry Cookbook and his other book, Bouchon, than from any other book or source. Want to know how to braise? You’ll absorb all you ever need to know about braising on page 186 of TFL Cookbook. Would you like to roast a chicken to crackily, juicy perfection? Read page xii in Bouchon. Read his guiding principles at the head of each section and you will learn techniques that will transform your cooking.

What Keller has to say about chicken stock changed forever the way I make broth. I only make it in my modified Keller-way, trying to be true to his principles but ruefully aware that I will always fall short of perfection.

Note: I take on faith Keller’s assertion that reducing carrots, leeks, and onions to small dice (mirepoix) maximizes the vegetable’s flavor by exposing the maximum amount of cell surface to the water.

Here’s what he writes:

5 pounds chicken bones, necks, and backs
1 pound chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold water
2 quarts ice cubes

1 3/4 (8 oz) carrots cut into 1-inch mirepoix
2 heaping (8 oz) leeks cut into 1-inch mirepoix (white and some light green parts only)
1 1/2 cups (8 oz) onions cut into 1-inch mirepoix
1 bay leaf

Rinse the bones, necks, backs, and optional chicken feet thoroughly under cold water to remove all the visible blood. Remove any organs that may still be attached to the bones. (The rinsing of bones and removal of any organs is an essential first step in the clarification of the stock, as blood proteins are removed that would coagulate when heated and there will therefore be less chance that impurities will cloud your stock.)

Place all the bones and the feet, if using, in a 14- to 16-quart stockpot. Cover with the cold water. Slowly bring the liquid to a simmer, beginning to skim as soon as any impurities rise to the top. (It is important to keep skimming, because as the stock comes to a simmer, impurities could otherwise be pulled back into the liquid and emulsify and cloud the finished stock.

Once the liquid is at a simmer, add the ice and then remove the fat. (The ice will chill and thicken the fat and turn it opaque, making it easier to remove.) Skim off as much of the impurities as possible. (Once the vegetables are added, skimming will be more difficult.)

Add the aromatics and slowly bring the liquid back to a simmer, skimming frequently. Simmer for another 30 to 40 mins, skimming often. Turn off the heat and allow the stock to rest for 10 mins; this allows any particles left in the stock to settle at the bottom of the pot.

Set a chinois or fine-mesh strainer over a container large enough to hold at least 6 quarts. Use a ladle to remove the stock from the pot and strain it into the container. (It is important to ladle the stock rather than pouring it, as the force of pouring it out all at once would force impurities through the strainer.) Discard any stock toward the bottom of the pot that is cloudy with impurities.

Fill a sink with ice water and place the container in it to cook the stock rapidly. Stir occasionally until there are no traces of steam. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, or freeze in several containers for longer storage.
Makes about 6 quarts.

Here’s how I make it:

1 4- to 5-lb organic chicken
1 3/4 cups (8 oz) carrots, cut into 1-inch mirepoix
2 heaping cups (8 oz) leeks cut into 1-inch mirepoix (white and some light green parts only)
1 1/2 cups (8 oz) onions cut into 1-inch mirepoix
1 bay leaf

Chop up all the aromatics (vegetables and bay leaf), place in a bowl, and have them at hand.

Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold running water. Put in a big stockpot and cover with 4 quarts water. Turn the heat to medium high; the point is to slow down the process of bringing the water to a boil so that you may remove as much of the impurities beforehand. As the water heats, keep an eye on the surface of the water. As foam and particles appear on the surface, skim them off. The ratio is simple: the more you skim, the cleaner the taste. Stay within range of the pot. Continue to skim.

When the water finally boils, pour in the aromatics. If you’ve a slacker in the skimming, you’ll still see brownish foam — although the vegetables, too, give off impurities. Skim as well as you can without scooping up the aromatics. Simmer the stock for 40 mins.

Let the stock settle and cool. Strain the soup through a very-finely meshed sieve or a not-so-finely meshed sieve lined with either a paper towel or cheese cloth. Place in refrigerator until fat solidifies on the surface. Remove before using or freezing.

Last Thoughts:

Even though Keller’s frequently use of “impurities” smacks of “our precious bodily fluids,” his point is palpable: the flavor of well-skimmed stocks and well-strained sauces is more vibrant than otherwise. The two friends of mine who followed these directions agreed. I used to make chicken stock from roasted chicken, but now I have come to agree with Marcella Hazan, who notices a bitter taste in heavier stocks. A light stock like this has a clear, chicken flavor and is more suitable for the wide range of uses to which I put my stock. This one, for instance, is perfect for risotti. Standing by the pot certainly is more labor intensive but the the entire process takes less time than many other stocks.