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Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

Oh, will the rain EVER end?  When I'm driving home from work and I can't hardly see out of the windshield because it's raining so hard, all I can think about making for dinner is a pot of warm, comforting soup! 

Today, the mood seem to be homemade chicken noodle soup for me and the little ones..
Now you can go about this in a number of ways.  Optimally, you would cover all the raw chicken pieces (bones, skin and all) with water, add vegetables, and simmer to make a nice rich stock for a couple of hours.  Or.... as a busy mom or dad, you can take the liberties of using some modern day shortcuts.  Tonight was all about those shortcuts.  I'm going to show you how I did with my favorite convenience item - a rotisserie chicken.  I'm also going to tell you what to with the rest of the chicken once you've removed the meat.

 Print this recipe!

Ingredients:
  • rotisserie chicken   
  • water, or optional - box of chicken stock/broth
  • handful of carrots
  • handful of celery
  • 1/4 onion, diced, optional
  • salt, pepper, poultry seasoning
  • fresh thyme
  • egg noodles
Step-by-Step:
When you get home, let your helper pull the chicken apart... there is no right or wrong way, and they start snacking on something healthy, so you can't really lose here!
Remove the meat from the chicken and tear it into pieces.  Keep the carcass!  For a small pot of soup, I only use about 1/2 of the chicken.  The rest of the chicken gets popped into a freezer bag and labeled for another use later.  (We're really getting a lot of mileage out of the $5 chicken, huh?)  When the whole family is home, I use a whole chicken (about 3 - 4 cups meat).
 
Now that you've removed all of the meat, throw the carcass and skin into a big pot, cover with water, add some seasoning (salt, pepper, an onion, celery, carrot, thyme, poultry seasoning.... really it can be whatever you want), and let it boil for an hour or two.   The marrow from the bones and the seasoning from the skin, meat, etc will condense and give you a lovely chicken stock.  This will be our soup base. 
 

 
After the broth has condensed and is rich and flavorful, remove all the skin, bones, and seasoning.   I'm going to keep the carrots and throw the rest out.
 
Just an extra tip.  If you have more stock than you need for the soup, do your self a favor and pour the rest of the cooled broth into ice cube trays (these are the silicone ones that I picked up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond) and freeze them.  
You can pop them out easily and store the frozen stock cubes in a gallon sized zip top bag.  The next time you need chicken broth/stock, you have a rich homemade version on hand for free!  You already paid for the chicken, so you may as well stretch that investment a bit.  This is both a time saver AND a huge money saver!  You can't beat that!
 
Next time you want a bit of soup ... 
On a night when you don't need a "big" pot of soup, all you need to do is throw a bunch of stock "cubes" into the pot.  If you don't have your own stock cubes, boil the carcass as I mentioned above.  At the very least, you can open a box or can of chicken stock or broth.  Since you aren't starting with a raw chicken, we need to start with some flavor.  The stock will make it taste like we've worked on this for hours.  This would even work for making yourself just a thermos of soup to bring to the office.  A few cubes, a handful of noodles.. and that's it!
Now back to using the carcass.  Here is the final broth for the soup.  See what a wonderful, rich soup base we have now?
I added maybe two handfuls of noodles.  .. it IS chicken noodle, after all.  There are so many shapes and sizes of noodles, that you get to have fun here.  Sometimes I use these straighter kinds, and sometimes the ones that look more "frilly."
Cook according to package directions for the noodles, then add in all the chicken that you removed at the beginning.  Let it heat though and get all juicy.  And that's it! It's super easy!
 
I think at this point, you HAVE to agree that this looks 1000 times better than chicken noodle out of a can!  Oh, I guess you can see that I fished the carrot pieces out of the "seasoning" pile and threw them back in there.  It needs a little color, and my daughter loves these.  I garnished with some fresh thyme leaves.

Now doesn't that warm up a rainy afternoon?
 

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Written Method:
This step is both a time saver and a huge money saver:  When you pick up a rotisserie chicken from
the supermarket (and don't we all?) and you've removed all of the meat, throw the carcass into a big pot, cover with water, add some seasoning (salt, pepper, an onion, celery, carrot, poultry seasoning.... really it can be whatever you want), and let it boil for an hour or two.  The marrow from the bones and the seasoning from the skin, meat, etc will condense and give you a lovely chicken stock.  After the stock is made, pour them into ice cube trays and freeze them.  You can pop them out easily and store the frozen stock cubes in a gallon sized zip top bag.  The next time you need chicken broth/stock, you have a rich homemade version on hand for free!  You already paid for the chicken, so you may as well stretch that investment a bit. 

So... if you don't have your own stock cubes, open a box or can of chicken stock or broth.  Since you aren't starting with a raw chicken, we need to start with some flavor.  The stock will make it taste like we've worked on this for hours.   To the broth, add the bones, some celery, carrots, some thyme, salt and pepper.  Add some more water (maybe just enough to cover) and let it boil for a while.

For a small pot of soup, I only use about 1/2 of the chicken. The rest of the chicken gets popped into a freezer bag and labeled for another use later.  After the broth has condensed and is rich and flavorful, remove all the skin, bones, and seasoning.   I added maybe two handfuls of noodles.  I threw a handful of baby carrot pieces back in there.  It needs a little color.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Apple Tarte Tatin with Red Wine Caramel and Brandied Whipped Cream

A Tarte Tatin is an upside-down tart in which the fruit are caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.  Well this one is a little different in that the apples are caramelized in a red wine caramel.  Okay, I know it sounds complicated... and while there are a lot of steps, each one is easy.  I promise.... follow along with me on this step-by-step tutorial on this decadent, eye-catching dessert!

The ingredients for this tarte tatin are very accessible.  I was down at my parents' fishing camp this weekend, so these are pretty basic pantry items.  I apologize for the quality of the photos.  All I had at the camp was my phone.

Tart
2 cups    dry red wine
1/4 tsp   cinnamon
1/4 tsp    vanilla
1/2 cup   sugar
1/4 cup   water
2 Tbsp   butter
1 Tbsp   brandy
2 apples
One 14-ounce sheet chilled puff pastry

Topping/Garnish
1/2 pint  heavy whipping cream
1 tsp      vanilla
1/4 cup  powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp brandy
* 1 ripe mango (optional)
* handful of strawberries + 1/4 cup sugar (optional)
* mint sprigs (optional garnish)

Step-by-Step:
I chose a golden delicious and a fuji apple for this tart.
First, prepare some aciduated water - water with a whole lemon squeezed into it.  You want to prevent the oxidation (browning) of the apple slices.
After cutting the apples, rub the cut halves with the lemon while you are working on them.  Once sliced, drop the pieces into the lemon water.


Remove the seeds and core from the apple halves.  *Note - an aluminum cutting instrument (like the measuring spoons we used here) will cause browning FASTER than stainless steel, so use stainless if you have it.  (we were at the fishing camp, remember?  Sometimes, you have to just make do.)


Slice the apples in uniform thickness.
Soak the apple slices in the lemon water to retard the oxidation.  You don't want brown apples!
2 cups of dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon).  The alcohol will all cook out, but the flavor will be concentrated, so use a wine that you enjoy drinking.
For the red wine syrup, add the wine to a small saucepan.  Add 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.  You could also throw in a couple of cinnamon sticks.
For the vanilla in the red wine syrup, use the best vanilla you can find.  I happen to love this clear Mexican vanilla.
Add 1/4 tsp of vanilla to the wine and cinnamon.
Boil the wine mixture over moderately high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup (about 15 minutes).
Now, for the caramel... 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water.
Add the sugar and water to a black iron skillet.
Stir over moderately high heat just until the sugar is dissolved - then don't stir ANY more.
The thing you want to watch with the caramel is the bubbles.  At first, they look all clear, flimsy and watery - as they do here.
Now the bubbles start looking bigger and more "elastic" looking.  Can you see the difference?
Continue swirling until a light amber caramel forms - about 5 minutes.  Now remove the skillet from the heat.
Now add the red wine syrup into the caramel.  Stir to dissolve the caramel.
Add the butter to the red wine caramel and cook for about a minute.
Add the drained apple slices to the red wine caramel.
Start cooking the apples over low heat.
Stir the caramel into the apples, and turn the apples occasionally until they are tender and the pan juices are syrupy - about 20 minutes.
After the first 10 minutes, add a tablespoon of brandy to the apples and continue cooking.
After 20 minutes, remove the apples from the pan.  They are now tender and succulent.  The red wine caramel is syrupy and coat the fruit.
Arrange the fruit in the skillet, starting in the middle.
After all of the fruit is in the skillet, pour the sauce over them and let this cool for about 30 minutes.  This is a good time to go preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Also, take out the puff pastry from the freezer.
Since this recipe uses store-bought puff pastry, it's super easy to assemble.  Take out one of the sheets of pastry and let it thaw about 25 minutes or so.
Fold out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, cut off the edges using a 12 inch plate as a guide, cut steam vents into the pastry, then lay the pastry over the fruit.
Turn the edges of the pastry under and "tuck" the fruit in.




All ready for the oven!
While the tart is baking, you can make the garnishes.  These are totally optional of course.  The first garnish was a mango puree. 
Puree the ripe mango pieces until smooth.  That's it!  Nothing else needed if the mangoes are ripe and sweet.
My strawberries were very ripe, but still a little tart, so I added a little sugar.  Blend until smooth.
For the brandied whipped cream:  Heavy whipping cream, vanilla, powdered sugar, a little brandy.
Blend until thick peaks form.  Taste and adjust as desired.  Yumm!
So here are my plate garnishes.  You could do all, none, or choose your own.
Bake the tart until the pastry is puffed and golden brown - about 45 - 50 minutes.  Now let it cool in the skillet about 10 - 15 minutes.
Now invert the tart carefully onto a large plate.
Cut into wedges and serve warm with whipped topping.
Voila!  Delicious!  All this needs is a great cup of coffee.


Now...  I'd love to hear from you!


Want more great recipes?
Please visit my Recipe Index for tons of ideas that you can cook with/for you family!   






Written directions:
Apple Prep.  First, prepare some aciduated water - water with a whole lemon squeezed into it.  You want to prevent the oxidation (browning) of the apple slices.  After cutting the apples, rub the cut halves with the lemon while you are working on them.  Once sliced, drop the pieces into the lemon water.  Remove the seeds and core from the apple halves.  *Note - an aluminum cutting instrument will cause browning FASTER than stainless steel, so use stainless if you have it.  Slice the apples in uniform thickness.  Soak the apple slices in the lemon water to retard the oxidation.

For the red wine syrup.  Measure out 2 cups of dry red wine.  The alcohol will all cook out, but the flavor will be concentrated, so use a wine that you enjoy drinking.  For the red wine syrup, add the wine to a small saucepan.  Add 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.  You could also throw in a couple of cinnamon sticks.   For the vanilla in the red wine syrup, use the best vanilla you can find.  I happen to love this clear Mexican vanilla.  Add 1/4 tsp of vanilla to the wine and cinnamon.  Boil the wine mixture over moderately high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup (about 15 minutes).

Now, for the caramel... 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water.  Add the sugar and water to a black iron skillet. Stir over moderately high heat just until the sugar is dissolved - then don't stir ANY more.  The thing you want to watch with the caramel is the bubbles.  At first, they look all clear, flimsy and watery. Then they will start looking bigger and more "elastic" looking.  Continue swirling until a light amber caramel forms - about 5 minutes.  Now remove the skillet from the heat.  

Now add the red wine syrup into the caramel.  Stir to dissolve the caramel.  Add the butter to the red wine caramel and cook for about a minute.  Add the drained apple slices to the red wine caramel. Start cooking the apples over low heat.  Stir the caramel into the apples, and turn the apples occasionally until they are tender and the pan juices are syrupy - about 20 minutes.  After the first 10 minutes, add a tablespoon of brandy to the apples and continue cooking.  After 20 minutes, remove the apples from the pan.  They are now tender and succulent.  The red wine caramel is syrupy and coat the fruit.

Start assembling.  Arrange the fruit in the skillet, starting in the middle.  After all of the fruit is in the skillet, pour the sauce over them and let this cool for about 30 minutes.  This is a good time to go preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Also, take out the puff pastry from the freezer and let it thaw about 25 minutes or so.  Fold out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, cut off the edges using a 12 inch plate as a guide, cut steam vents into the pastry, then lay the pastry over the fruit.  Turn the edges of the pastry under and "tuck" the fruit in.  Now it is all ready for the oven!

Garnishes.  While the tart is baking, you can make the garnishes.  These are totally optional of course.  The first garnish was a mango puree.  Puree the ripe mango pieces until smooth.  That's it!  Nothing else needed if the mangoes are ripe and sweet.  My strawberries were very ripe, but still a little tart, so I added a little sugar.  Blend until smooth.

For the brandied whipped cream.  Mix heavy whipping cream, vanilla, powdered sugar, a little brandy.  Blend until thick peaks form.  Taste and adjust as desired.  Yumm!

Bake the tart until the pastry is puffed and golden brown - about 45 - 50 minutes.  Let it cool in the skillet about 10 - 15 minutes.  Now invert the tart carefully onto a large plate.  Cut into wedges and serve warm with whipped topping.

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