As Comforting As Chicken Soup
A few weeks ago when my sinuses were congested, my eyes were puffy and my head was simply stuffed up, I knew I needed some brothy chicken soup as part of my recovery. The process of making soup shows how a thoughtfully stocked kitchen and the will to improvise a few steps can result in satisfying solo meals, thus the craft and finesse of eating solo.
Cooking for one has forced me to dissect recipes to their essential fragments and reconfigure them to edible elements that are friendly to eating solo. The goal becomes making enough for one or two meals and, ideally, using items I have on hand and preparing ingredients that become parts of meals.
When deconstructing a chicken soup, the essential elements become categories with options:
- Chicken: I enjoy the fuller flavor of dark meat, especially for soup and stews, but if you prefer chicken breast that is perfectly fine. I shop at the meat counter and buy a pound of boneless, skinless thighs.
- Olive oil or canola oil: Both are good items to have on your shelf.
- Chicken broth: The 32 ounce boxes of chicken broth have a long shelf life, of many months, so are useful to have on your shelf. Even for a small batch, I would use two boxes since I like lots of broth.
- Noodles, potato, or rice: For this batch, I chopped some noodles, about 3 ounces, which I had purchased on sale from the local fresh pasta maker. I cooked them first in the 3 quart pot that I would be use for soup making, following the package instructions. Otherwise you can use a diced, baked potato or rice that you had from the previous day’s stir fry.
- Frozen vegetable: Yes, I enjoy fresh veggies, but a 10 ounce bag of frozen veggie is a quick fill in. California Blend includes broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.
- Dry seasonings: Dehydrated onion, garlic, celery, dried seasoning such as thyme or basil and salt and pepper are useful.
To assemble quick chicken soup, all you should need to cook is the chicken. The noodles or other starch will be pre-cooked, and the chicken broth, frozen vegetables and seasonings will be on hand. Be aware that chopping fresh chicken or other meat is a potentially hazardous kitchen task and needs to be cleaned up with soap and water right away. Never cut anything, like vegetables, on the cutting board after raw meat. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and counter top with soap and water too.
Dice your chicken small enough so it will fit on a soup spoon. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot. Put the pot on burner with the heat turned to medium high. When the oil is warmed, drop chicken pieces into pot (then wash your hands with soap). Stir with a large spoon until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot, when it is firm, but leave the oil and chicken bits in the bottom.
Return pot to burner. Keep burner on medium high heat and gradually add chicken broth. Use spoon to loosen bits of chicken on bottom. Add frozen veggies, cooked chicken, noodles (or potatoes or rice), stir and heat through.
Cautiously add your choice of seasonings, start with a teaspoon of each. You can always add more but it is impossible to remove it. Stir well and simmer on medium to low heat. A few bubbles are fine but don’t let it boil. Taste and add seasonings, if needed.
Crafting Meals on The Deliberate Pickle blog will often involve this interwoven process of using ingredients in multiple ways. A major frustration in cooking solo can be following recipes that are built for four or more servings, thus producing too much food and wasted leftovers.
After two bowls of chicken soup and the nasal decongestant spray the pharmacist recommended, I certainly felt less in a stuffy fog and healed. I had some soup left for another day and still had noodles left for a pasta meal. The spices and olive oil stand ready for my next plan.