Happy Nice Time Fight! Oh, So You Think You Don’t Need Chicken Soup, HENGHHH???
A most necessary rebuttal to Mojopo’s terrible chicken soup libel, by Happy reader Delaney Blom.
Really, Happy, I expect more from your culture pages. First, you slightly raised my hackles by suggesting that liquor isn’t good to cure the cold, but thankfully you made an exception for me and my kind**. Then you really went over the edge and denied the curative and preventative medicinal properties of chicken soup, which have been demonstrated anecdotally with such frequency as to become lore. Everyone knows lore don’t lie.
Any self-respecting home cook keeps adequate reserves of homemade chicken stock in the freezer, for times of illness and for general culinary use. Yes, it takes time to make. That is why we make a shitload and keep adequate reserves in our freezer. Keep in mind that we’re talking about real-deal stock, not the meatish and salty water product available in cans and cartons from your grocer. [Editrix’s note: Perhaps if Mojopo weren’t a BIG JERK who drinks her chicken soup FROM A CAN like some kind of BIG JERK she would have a store of chicken carcasses at the ready in her freezer her own bad self.]
HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK
1. Collect chicken bones over time. When you have a nice chicken dinner (i.e., every Sunday, unless you’re a fucking heathen), pick the leftover meat from the carcass for chicken salad or whatever, and put the bones in a big-ass freezer bag in your freezer. It is not mandatory that you cook the chicken yourself. Your local delicatessen or Peruvian rotisserie sells whole chickens cooked and ready to eat. It doesn’t even have to be a whole bird; the pieces frequently come with bones. (If this grosses you out because someone was gnawing on that bone, maybe you wouldn’t be sick if you weren’t such a germaphobe and exposed yourself to some pathogens every now and then.) Finally, if you buy chickens whole, then cut the backs out to lay the bastards flat on your grill, throw those backs in the bone bag, and you get a gold star for knife skills and being an adult about handling raw meat.
2. When the bone bag is full, you’re ready to cook some stock! Put the frozen block of bones into your biggest pot (this is called a stock pot; you make stock in it). Throw some salt, vegetables, herbs, and spices in there: a whole onion, a few carrots, some celery stalks with the leaves still attached, a handful of cloves of garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, the 57th Street Bridge Song, a bay leaf or two, peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, etc. [Editrix here again: and a lemon! Not a whole lemon. Cut it in half, idiot.] This isn’t an exact science, people; whatever you’ve got, whatever you like. The bones are the important thing. Now fill the pot with water, almost all the way to the top.
3. Put the pot on high heat and keep an eye on it until it boils. Depending on how well you picked the carcasses, you may need to skim some foam from the top as it approaches boiling. When it’s about to boil and spitting water all over your stove top, turn it way down to a very gentle simmer. DO NOT PUT A LID ON IT!!!11!!1
4. What’s going on now is that all of the connective tissue in the chicken parts and vegetables is being extracted into the water. This takes hours or days. Don’t worry about it. Check it every two hours or so. Top off the water in the pot if you’ve lost a lot to evaporation. Push the floating bits down into the water. Chuckle at how the onion bobs back to the top. Enjoy the aroma filling your home.
5. It’s done cooking! How do you know? Scoop a bone out and crush it under the gentle pressure of your thumb and forefinger. Turn the heat off, and wait for it to cool enough that you won’t burn the shit out of yourself.
6. Pour the broth through a colander into a large container. Let that cool a little more before putting the container in the fridge. (If it’s cold outside, that’s a good place to let it cool).
7. Again, depending on how well you cleaned the carcasses, there may be a good deal of fat in your stock. During cooling, it will have risen to the top of the container and solidified. Take that shit out. Some people save it for other purposes (cooking, spread on toast, personal lubrication), so consider that. Marvel at how thick and gelatinous your stock is when it’s chilled or at room temperature, unlike that canned or cartoned piss water you’ve been using your whole life.
8. BOOM!! Gallons of chicken stock ready to use or freeze. Put some in ice cube trays for a kick-ass secret ingredient for fortifying sauces. Those leftover Chinese food soup containers are good for freezing larger amounts, but I usually use quart-sized freezer bags. The bags can be a fucking mess if you’re not careful, so here are a few pro tips: “storage” bags are not the same as “freezer” bags; make sure the zippy part of the bag is clean of any stock or schmaltz before you close the bag; put the bags on a cookie sheet in the freezer until they’re solid.
9. Oh, you’re sick and whiny about soup? Take a block of stock out of your freezer and thaw it out in a pot on the stove. Chop celery and carrots to put into the thawed out stock and simmer them for a few minutes. Bring it up to a boil and add egg noodles. [Editrix: or rice or cut up potatoes or go double-starch crazy and add BOTH! Also do you have some random, like, bell peppers or broccoli or other veg? Put that in too!] When the noodles are done, ladle up a bowl, squeeze on some lemon juice and/or Tabasco sauce, and garnish with herbs of your choosing (parsley, chives, rosemary, cannabis). You’re going to be better before you know it. Have a soda on the side.
** By the way, the real whiskey remedy (passed down from an early 20th c. pharmacist) is: 1) obtain a bag of lemons and a pint bottle of rye whiskey (this recipe is from when you bought liquor in pints, quarts, gallons, and barrels. 375-500 mL in le metrique); 2) drink half the bottle while cutting the lemons into little wedges; 3) stuff the lemons into the half-drunk bottle until is is full; 4) recap the bottle and shake vigorously (the bottle, not your booze-craving body); 5) finish the bottle. Voila. Repeat if necessary, when you wake up.