By Gale Jacobs
What is it about a chilly, gray fall day that makes you yearn
for hot, home-cooked meals? Geese flying south, the smell of
wood smoke in the air and tree leaves yellowing all have me thinking
about exchanging my summer tee shirts for cozy, comfortable sweatshirts
and sweaters. It is also time to retire the summer salad dishes
for those well remembered warming soups.
Chicken soup, just like
Mom’s, is what I crave. A bowl
of steaming, golden broth with tender bits of chicken, wide noodles
or perhaps rice gently bob among chunks of bright orange carrots,
green crescent celery slices and dotted with peas. Crackers are
on the side, waiting to be crushed atop this homey feast.
Mom’s chicken soup is tasty, warming and filling but a
variety is always welcomed and often needed. Let’s have
some fun and gussy up our chicken soup. Take the same clear broth
or stock, chicken bits and carrot chunks but use fine noodles
instead of the wide noodles. Stir in chopped sweet red pepper,
thinly sliced green onions, soy sauce, grated fresh ginger and
crushed red pepper. Add halved fresh pea pods and you have an
Asian variation. Or take a trip to your local oriental market
and purchase white miso to use instead of soy sauce. Udon or
soba noodles, broken in half, substitute for the fine noodles
for a Japanese flavor. To try curried soup, use the same clear
broth and chicken bits but uses Japanese curly dried wheat flour
noodles, unsweetened coconut milk, and some peeled, chopped sweet
potato. Red or green Thai curry paste substitutes for the soy
sauce or miso and add diced tomato. Omit the other vegetables.
Fresh cilantro leaves complete the transformation.
For an Italian flavor,
add garlic and fresh spinach sautéed
in olive oil to the same clear chicken broth with carrot chunks.
Your favorite tortellini pasta, Italian seasonings, freshly ground
pepper and shredded Parmesan cheese make this soup a favorite.
Chicken bits are optional. Italian flat bread, focaccia, cut
into small cubes and lightly oven toasted, is the garnish for
the next variation. Use the same clear chicken broth but add
chopped zucchini or yellow summer squash, sweet green pepper
and onions sautéed in the olive oil. Add one can diced
tomatoes along with basil, oregano and garlic. Serve this delectable
soup with grated Parmesan cheese. Chicken can be added if a heartier
meal is desired.
Potatoes, whether russets
or new, are always a good addition to chicken soup. Cubed and
cooked in the chicken broth, they
compliment the addition of sautéed chopped leeks and onions.
Add pepper, freshly ground, and milk or half-and-half before
serving. Browned ham bits garnish this delicious soup. Vary this
soup by adding Dijon mustard and dried thyme. Replace the ham
with cooked chicken. Fresh cabbage, cut into ¼ inch strips,
is added just before serving.
Peanut butter in chicken
soup? You bet! Simmer peeled, diced and browned sweet potatoes
in the clear broth, along with garlic,
red onion, salsa, black beans, cooked chicken pieces and rice.
Whisk in peanut butter just before serving. Or, to be more exotic,
stir sautéed onions, celery and sweet red pepper into
clear broth, thickened with flour, along with unsweetened coconut
milk, ground red pepper and finely shredded lemon peel. Add peanut
butter, chicken chunks and soy sauce and garnish each serving
with peanuts, cilantro and thin red pepper strips.
Your favorite chunky garden-style salsa, mild, medium or hot,
heats up the clear chicken stock for a south of the border flavor.
Chili powder, corn with red and green peppers, cooked chicken
pieces, shredded jack cheese and broken corn tortilla chips complete
this tasty soup. Omit the salsa and chili powder but add diced
green chilies and chopped onion to the peppers and corn. Substitute
browned bulk breakfast sausage for the chicken and thicken the
soup with flour. Garnish this delightful southwestern variation
with shredded jack or cheddar cheese and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Love Cheddar cheese? To
chicken stock and milk thickened with flour, add sautéed
onion and celery, pepper, and dry mustard. Stir in shredded
cheddar cheese and heat until melted. Sprinkle
with paprika just before serving. Add chicken bits or cooked
potatoes for a heartier version of this classic creamed soup
the next time you want a stick-to-the- ribs lunch on a cold,
frosty day. Beer and carrots make interesting additions to vary
this cheese soup. Substitute cumin, nutmeg and cloves for the
mustard. Sour cream, instead of the milk, is added just before
Want to wow your family
or guests this fall? Bake your chicken soup in a pumpkin. Cut
a lid in the pumpkin, remove and discard
seeds and fibrous insides. Rub the inside with butter and salt
and place sautéed minced onion, breadcrumbs, pepper, nutmeg
and sage along with Swiss cheese in pumpkin. Fill pumpkin with
enough chicken broth to within ½" of top. Place on
cookie sheet and bake with lid on for 1-½ hours. Add enough
heavy cream to fill to top and bake until heated through. Use
the pumpkin as a tureen to serve and be sure to ladle out the
soft insides of the pumpkin with each serving. Garnish with parsley.
As you can see, chicken
soup does not have to be limited to chicken and noodles. Have
fun with your soups. Start with the
clear broth or stock, canned or home made, and add your favorite
ingredients or try using the leftovers that hide in your refrigerator.
Shrimp and ham jambalaya left over from last night’s supper?
Add it to clear broth and you have a Cajun tomato rice soup.
Mashed potatoes left from Sunday’s dinner? Add them, along
with your favorite vegetables and spices to create your own original