Beatin’ Them January Blues

Yet another cold and rainy day in January, my friends. I’m a giant wuss about the cold, and the only way I manage to get through winter at all is hunker down, eat lots of soup, drink lots of tea and dark beer, and buy many, many (too many) pretty winter coats. So I’ve got two perfect recipes for keeping your toes warm on these bleary, dreary days: homemade chicken noodle soup and an updated version of hot buttered rum.

For the soup I used a homemade stock recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve always been kind of intimidated by the idea of making my own stock, but I got so sick a few weeks ago I knew I needed the real stuff, canned soup just wasn’t going to cut it. And stock turned out to be a real snap to make!

A few tips: You’ll need a couple pounds of chicken for the stock. When I buy chicken breasts I like to buy them bone in, skin-on and then cut out the bones at home. You can usually find either split breasts with ribs attached, or whole breasts. Either way it’s cheaper, and that way I get to have skin-on boneless chicken breasts (and seriously, who doesn’t love chicken skin? Excluding weirdo health freaks, of course, who probably should’t be reading this blog). I put all the bones and scraps of meat into a bag and throw it into the freezer to use for stock. Or you could buy whole chicken, even cheaper, and save all the backs, necks, and other odds and ends. That way you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of chicken for stock and end up having to throw out all the meat afterward. Smitten Kitchen talks about making a stock bag, which I think is a genius idea. Basically whenever you chop vegetables you bag all the scraps (carrot peels, onion tops and skins, garlic ends, mushroom stems) and throw them in a freezer bag. Once you accumulate enough you can just throw the bag in your stock pot without having to go out and buy new veggies! Last thing, this stock recipe didn’t yield quite as much as I thought it would. If you hope to have enough for the soup and still have some to freeze afterward I would definitely double the recipe.

Sicko Soup with Homemade Stock

For the stock:

3 1/2 – 4 1/2 lbs of chicken (any bones or scraps will do, but if you don’t have those saved up you can go out and buy some cheap thighs and legs.)

3 celery ribs, roughly diced

3 carrots, roughly diced (you don’t even need to peel!)

2 parsnips, chopped into big chunks

2 yellow onions, roughly diced

1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut horizontally in half

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

4 quarts cold water

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dry)

(If using veggie scraps saved in your stock bag you can replace all the veggies listed above with that)

For the soup:

Homemade chicken stock

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch rounds

2 ribs celery, chopped into 1/4 into chunks

1 yellow onion, roughly diced or thinly sliced if you’re lazy like me

2 medium yukon gold potatoes, chopped into one inch chunks

1-2 garlic cloves, roughly minced

1/4 lb soup noodles such as stelline or cut spaghetti (I used a mix of both)

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Ground black pepper to taste

To make stock:
In a large 8 to 10 quart pot, heat a very small drizzle of olive oil over medium low heat until shimmering. Add the celery, carrots, and onions and stir around until nicely coated with oil. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring very frequently, until onions are turning translucent. This is called sweating the vegetables, Smitten Kitchen’s recipe doesn’t call for it but I watched this segment from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and something about the way Anne Burrell says big flavor won me over. Add garlic and thyme and stir around a bit, let sit for another minute or two.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and bump the heat up to medium high. Bring to boil, skimming the froth and scum that accumulates on the top. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and let sit for three hours. I felt like my a lot of my stock was evaporating so I covered the pot about halfway through, so keep an eye on things and continue to periodically skim off the foamy crud as it floats to the top.

Once your stock has been simmering for three hours, strain it through a fine mesh colander into a large vessel (tupperware, another pot, you get the idea). If you don’t have a mesh colander don’t sweat it, just use whichever strainer you have around that has the smallest holes. If you’re going to save the stock for later, put in a large tupperware and allow to cool to room temperature before storing in the freezer. If using immediately, give your big pot a quick rinse to clear out any debris then pour the stock back in.

To make soup:

Time to sweat some veg again. In your large pot heat about a teaspoon of olive oil over medium low heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and onions and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are beginning to soften and turn translucent. A little browning is ok, but you don’t want to fry anything so make sure to stir things around a lot.

Pour stock into the pot, I didn’t measure how much I used but you want the broth to cover the vegetables by an inch or two. Increase heat to medium and add noodles. Simmer until veggies and noodles are desired consistency. Taste, and adjust seasonings, adding a little extra salt, pepper, and thyme if necessary, then serve!

Hot Buttered Rum with Spice Tea

1 shot spiced rum

1 sliver butter

Spiced tea (I used Celestial Bengal Spice, just because we had it on hand. Chai, or anything cinnamon-y or clove-y will also work)

1 tablespoon honey, optional

Boil water and steep tea. Add honey and a shot of rum. If you take milk with your tea, add a little less than usual and a very thin slice of butter. Enjoy! This is especially good if you’re sick, it feels like an old-timey cure for the cold (and much tastier than cough syrup!)

Feeling especially down about the weather? On a really cold and drippy day make the soup and the stock and consume by a window, looking out at the sleet and listening to this song (Before you ask, I have no idea what’s up with the giraffe image).



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