(Very Chicken-y) Chicken Soup with Crispy Chicken Skin

Food, Health

I’ve caught a bug over the past few days. Nothing too serious, just enough to clog my head — making it feel like it’s full of lead — where you try to breathe in through your nose and worry that your eyeballs will get sucked into your brain. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic.

Soup is often a miracle worker when it comes to having a cold. It’s a good way to ingest loads of good aromatics, garlic and liquid that’s easy for your stomach to digest.

And like I said only a couple of posts ago, soup used to scare me. Especially chicken soup. How was I to ever get full? It tasted too watery — too “Campbell’s soupy” that I didn’t like growing up. I try to stay away from noodles and rice, and in the past have added rice at the end of the soup to stretch it out — to have a little more for my belly to digest.

I made some chicken soup last night using some technique I’ve picked up over the years. I added some extra flavor so this soup would give me the most chicken-y, vegetable-y flavor I could fit into one bowl. This is how it goes.

What you’ll need:
1 – 3-4lb whole chicken
3 medium yellow onions, 2 cut in half, 1 finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, 3 smashed, 3 minced
6 ribs of celery, 3 cut in half, 3 finely diced
6 carrots, 3 cut in half, 3 finely diced
salt, pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp. canola/vegetable oil

What you’ll do:

In a big pot, throw in your chicken. Add your halved onions, carrots and celery. Add your smashed garlic. (A sprig of fresh thyme, if you have it) Fill it up with cold water till it covers the chicken. Add a few pinches of kosher salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is done, skimming off crud and foam as it floats to the top. About 20-25 minutes. Lift the chicken and make sure to drain the cavity juices into the pot before transferring to a plate for cooling. Continue to let your chicken broth (with veggies, etc.) simmer away while you cut up your veg and letting the chicken cool.

(Flavor note** By adding mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery) to your cooking liquid, you double the veggie flavor you get in your final dish. I love this. Such a good technique to pick up on.)

In a separate pot, toss in your oil and bring it up to a medium heat. Add your diced onion, carrot and celery. Add a pinch of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes till everything becomes soft. Add your garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.

Strain the broth you cooked your chicken in. Or, scoop out the veg with a slotted spoon or sieve.

After your veg gets soft, add in your chicken broth (about 5-7 cups, perhaps. Really, however much you want.)

Bring it up to a simmer.

Now, this is the fun part. Take off the skin of the chicken in as big of pieces as you can. Reserve to the side. Take off all the meat and tear into bite size chunks. Throw into soup and warm through. Add your thyme and taste. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

When you’re ready to serve, grab a nonstick pan and start cooking the chicken skin on a medium heat. Don’t add any extra oil as the chicken skin still contains a good amount of fat. The skins will render and will shrink and crisp just like bacon.

Dish up your soup. Add a half tablespoon of butter to the bowl, if you want. I mean, butter is just too good and adds such a nice balance to the broth. Top with crumbled up fried chicken skin. The skin adds a good crunchy texture to the soup. Plus, it just makes it taste more chicken-y, and that was just what I wanted to do.

If you want, add a little hit of sriracha sauce if you want some extra heat. When you’re sick and can’t breathe, a little hit of spicy clears you right up. Not to mention, all the garlic in this soup is so, so good for you.



broccoli and cauliflower [epic veg time!]

Food, Health

Eating healthy isn’t easy.

At least at first.

We have to admit to ourselves that it’s easier to pick up something already cooked or in a bag or “just heat and eat!” To eat better, we have to cook more from scratch.

That’s one of my biggest pet peeves with frozen health foods. Those “throw into a saute pan and cook” dinners are loaded with hidden preservatives [read: SALT & CRAP]. Then, there’s the creamy sauce or teriyaki stuff you add in with your veggies. Be careful and read the box it comes in. Cream sauce = faaaaaat and teriyaki = sugaaaar

We know that vegetables are good for us. Getting them to taste good…is a different matter. Vegetables CAN be enjoyable and even asked for when it comes time to eat. I can’t say that I’ve dominated all that is vegetable cooking, but I can say that you can eat a plate full of green things and be perfectly full and happy. (And can even afford somethin’ sweet at the end — eating veggies pays off in many ways!)

So, if I were to give advice to those learning to eat better, I’d say start small. Work with what you know how to do and what you can do quick. That’s one of the brilliant things about vegetables because AT MOST, they take 45 minutes to cook through. (Besides potatoes…which are a veggie I’ve been told to go easy on.) Steaming, sauteing, etc, really only takes 10-20 minutes.

We eat a lot of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Strangely enough, I’m beginning to fall in love with these two incredibly good for you‘ vegetables. I prepare them simple.

Steam till they’re tender enough to poke through with a fork. (About 10 minutes)
Let cool slightly and toss with olive oil and some drops of fresh lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. I do this with both broccoli and cauliflower. They can also be roasted in the oven till brown. Cauliflower is an awesome meat substitute. It’s big and filling, and cuts like a piece of meat.

A sample meal, that we eat quite often, goes a little somethin’ like this:

  • Salad greens (dark leafy greens/spinach mix) with olive oil, acid (lemon juice, sherry/red/white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Pair with some avocado and cucumber.
  • Steamed broccoli or cauliflower tossed in olive oil, lemon (or without), salt and pepper.
  • Small protein — Half a chicken breast/steak, etc.

Super delicious. And don’t be afraid to use salt on veggies. It enhances flavor giving you the up and front of each vegetable.

I don’t have many cool recipes for cooking vegetables….but I can say that it’s hard to go wrong.

And like I said, start with what you know how to do. Get to know what each vegetable tastes like at its best and eat and eat….

and eat…

all things new [year]

Food, Health, Story

We can’t escape the feeling of something new.

Regardless of what we feel as a new year, on paper, all the numbers have changed. Things feel fresh. Slates — seemingly — wiped clean.

Christmas was so, so good. Fun times and so much food! Beignets at Cafe du Monde, Poboys from Domilises’, and even the chili dogs we ate off Bourbon St. at 1:30am. It wasn’t our proudest moment, but it surely hit the spot after a long day of traveling. I spilled chili all over my shoes and we laughed on the elevator all the way up to our room.

Sweet times with family and friends. Picking skin off a fried turkey and eating it like some animal who’s been hibernating all winter. Goodness gracious, the sweets! Banana puddin’, pecan pie and my Gran’s fruit salad that, to be honest, is pretty much dessert. We got some really thoughtful gifts and among them were the Momofuku Milk Bar and Pork & Sons cookbook — super rad!

Leaving is always hard as being at home makes you soft. Especially times where you feel like you’ve made good connections with family and other distant relatives you maybe see once a  year. It’s never enough, you see?

And then comes the transition back home only be met with New Years. Seriously? Another holiday? Why can’t we spread these things out? Like in March or September.

We’re always torn with what to do on New Years. Lots of folks are still out of town or busy and you feel the need to welcome in the new  year with a bang! [or something.]

This year was a little different. Post-Christmas hustle and bustle sometimes leaves you feeling a little worn out — maybe a little sad, but altogether hopeful for things to come.
My wife and I hunkered in and rested. I cooked braised beef short ribs, roasted cauliflower and sauteed brussel sprouts. Some of our favorite things. We watched cheesy TV on hulu and a somewhat melancholic movie that I dosed off from during the last 45 minutes. I jerked awake just in time to welcome in the new year with Hannah, as we watched the seconds come closer and listened to Mariah Carey’s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”. We laughed and hugged and eventually, fell asleep.

I’ve yet to start my “body back to square one” diet, of which, I will begin today at lunch with bone broth and some sort of lean protein. I will do that for a few days and work into steamed vegetables. It’s been hard going without coffee. I’ve managed to get over the caffeine headaches, but I do miss the ritual of a morning cup of coffee. (And afternoon, to be honest.)

But with this diet, comes a sense of well-being. Like I’m doing something…good.

I’ve been pretty careless about what I eat and when I eat it. I wasn’t doing a good job of listening to my body. I don’t want to live my life on OTC medications everyday. We have the ability, if we want, to fix ourselves.

Preventative healthcare, I guess you could say.

And here’s to the new year — to becoming better people — and better cooks — and healthier lifestyles — and bigger beards — and so on and so forth…