Quick, Connors kids. What is the dinner most often eaten in your lifetime of Connorshood? (Hint, it begins with chicken and ends with soup.)
Here at our house we bow our heads before meals, thanking the Lord for what we are about to eat, and asking His blessing upon it. It’s a good habit. It keeps us centered on our most solid foundation. If we are thinking clearly around our table, which I am sorry to say is not all the time, then we also remember to thank the Lord for the creatures who gave their lives for our nourishment. Most often at our house those creatures are chickens.
If you’re going to use a chicken for nourishment, use it well. You can easily get two decent meals out of one gracious chicken.
One of our go-to comfort meals is BAKED CHICKEN. It’s pretty simple. Clean a whole fryer chicken in cold water. Make sure you clean out the little pockets of blood tucked below the neck bone in the cavity. Dry the skin with a paper towel, coat lightly with olive oil, and generously shake kosher salt and pepper over the skin. Place in a casserole or pan, breast side up. Bake uncovered at 375 for roughly 90 minutes. (Big roaster chickens take longer. I usually buy whole fryers.) The skin should be golden and crispy, and juices should run clear when cut.
GRAVY: Drain the drippings into a pan and add water and bullion or canned chicken broth, so that you have 3-5 c broth. Add more bouillon, salt and pepper to taste. In a separate bowl mix 1 c cold water with roughly 2/3 c flour. Make sure there are no lumps. Pour cold mixture into boiling broth and drippings. Stir as you bring back to a boil. If too thin, make more four mix and add. If too thick, add more broth.
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP: After you’ve feasted on your baked chicken, place all bones, skin, and leftover drippings and gravy in a pot. Cover with water and simmer for at least an hour. Drain broth through a strainer into a clean pot, add bouillon to taste, and add a handful of celery bitters. That’s the inside leaves and small stalks from the heart of a bunch of celery. This is an essential part of soup. Every time I clean a bunch of celery I keep these leaves, storing them in a baggie in my crisper. To boiling broth add thin slices of peeled carrots, a bag of Mrs. Weiss Kluski noodles, and juice of one lemon. Boil all these for 16 minutes. (If you use another brand of noodle the time will vary. Follow instructions on package. Or make home made noodles and spend all afternoon :)
Remember to use your taste buds. If you need more flavor, add salt, pepper and bouillon. I like Wyler’s crystals, but apparently they aren’t making them any more. Dave spent ten times more than he should have to find what inventory remained at Amazon for my Christmas gift last year. Most bullion is based in salt, so be careful not to add too much salt before you have the flavor you want. Turn off the flame when your noodles and carrots are “to the tooth” or “al dente”, meaning there is a little bite to it. The residual heat will continue to cook them.
If you don’t have a carcass of a chicken, then brown some chicken breasts in a couple tablespoons of butter and olive oil. Here’s the trick, and remember this always. The flavor is right here:
|The flavor is in the brownings!|
It starts with butter and oil, not a lot, but enough to apply good heat to the meat. And salt and pepper are underused as well. Golden brown is that place just before things are burnt. Right when you have this loveliness, add very hot water and simmer the meat for 1/2 - all afternoon, depending on quantity and your schedule. (A simmer is not boiling.) Drain the meat, shred it up, and use the broth for soup. Add shredded meat when your soup is cooked. (If you like onion, add it early on. Green onion is usually best.)