Thursday, September 11, 2014

Roasted garlic, lemon chicken soup

Hello everyone!  I'm sure school has started in your neck of the woods, and as we all know, when school starts, your child starts to bring home illnesses along with mounds and mounds of paperwork!  This has been the case in our house, as our daughter brought home a cold last week.  Great.  When someone in our house has a cold (or whatever else), my go-to is instantly chicken soup.  I have a couple of variations of it, but this is one of my favorites.  Why?  It has lemon.  It has roasted garlic.  It has orzo.  What's not to like??

Yum!  I just want to dive in there!  This is a very quick, very easy soup (because, lets be honest, when you're feeling sick, do you want to be cooking for hours??  I know I don't!); there is very little hands-on time needed for this.  This is also a great way to stretch some chicken over a few meals, for those times when the budget gets pinched, and who hasn't been there?
Here's your grocery list for this yummy soup:
2 quarts chicken stock, store bought or homemade
2-3 bone-in chicken breasts
2-3 carrot sticks
2-3 stalks of celery
Dried herbs of choice (for today, I use oregano, thyme, bay leaves and parsley)
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 C Orzo (or pasta of your choice)

For roasting my chicken breasts, I use:
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
Olive oil

Alrighty!  The start of this recipe is a lot like my cheesy chicken quesadillas, so we'll preheat the oven to 425* and pull out a baking sheet.  Line the sheet with aluminium foil, and place the chicken breasts on it.  I like to sprinkle mine with garlic powder, paprika and salt, but you can go with just straight-up salt if you want, and then drizzle them with some olive oil.  Once the oven has preheated, slide these babies in for about 40 minutes, let cool, then shred!  

After you put the chicken in, go on and pull out another square of foil, and put your garlic cloves on, leaving the paper around the cloves on.  Put about a TBS of olive oil over the cloves, then fold it up into a nice little package, and slide into the oven with the chicken for about 30 minutes.  SAVE THE OIL THAT THIS ROASTS IN!!  Roasted garlic oil is so good, and will be used later in this soup!  Yum!

Once your chicken is finished, it will be golden brown and smell amazing!  Yum!
At this point, you're about half-way through.  How easy is this?  Now then, cut your celery and carrots up into bite-sized pieces.  I like to use the leafy tops of the celery, too!  Yum!  Anyway, toss all of that into a skillet, with the oil from your roasted garlic, and gently, over medium-low heat, let them soften over a period of about 10-15 minutes.  You don't want them to get any color on them, but if some of them get some browning, its no big deal.  Just adds some another layer of flavor in your soup!  I like to sprinkle mine with a little salt, because I like to salt at nearly every step, but add it when you'd like.

While these are softening, put your roasted garlic cloves in the pot that you're going to make your soup in.  These should squeeze easily out of their papers, and be nice and soft and just yyyuuuummmmmmm.  Pour enough chicken stock into the pot, so that you can put an immersion blender in, and blend the garlic into the chicken stock.  Don't have an immersion blender?  No worries!  You can blend this in a blender, or even in a food processor, then put it into the pot!

Funnily enough, this step turns the stock from being a beautiful golden brown, into a white frothy liquid.  But it will calm down.  If you want to, you can skim the top of the foam off of your soup base, but you don't have to.  I chose to today.  
Once you have the garlic blended in, go on and add the rest of the chicken stock, and your softened carrots, celery, and dried herbs.  Turn the heat on, and let the veggies finish cooking, for about 2 hours, over medium heat, covered.  If you find that your chicken stock evaporates while you cook, you can easily add some water, however, I just keep it at a bare simmer, keep the pot covered, and I don't usually have any problems.   

Alright!  After 2 hours or so, gather up your shredded chicken (I like to shred it in the same pan I roast it in.  That way, it can hang out in the juices that collect in the pan, so it stays nice and moist), and add it to your soup.  Since the chicken is already cooked, you don't need to add it any earlier.  If you add the chicken in, and let it cook for hours with the rest of the soup, it will get really tough, and we don't want that. 

After you add in your chicken, go on and add in the zest and juice of one lemon (new to zesting?  I go into more detail in my roasted chicken post), along with the chopped fresh parsley.

You can certainly pick each leaf of parsley off of the bunch, however, I like to just cut diagonally into the bunch, and cut off the upper 3rd of the parsley, then just chop it up!  I gather all it all up, and then just run the knife through it into a nice chop.

I add this parsley in just before serving, so it adds a nice pop of green in the soup.  After all, we enjoy our food with our eyes as well as our mouths!

I do not, I repeat, do NOT cook my pasta in with my soup.  I cook it separately, because not only will the pasta absorb some of the liquid out of your soup if you cook it into the soup, but it will continue to absorb it over night, so it ends up a really gummy mess the next day.  So, just cook it separately, and add the pasta to your bowl, then ladle the soup in over it!  
This soup really is so easy, and just amazing tasting!  The lemon shines through just enough, to help sooth a sore throat, and the roasted garlic adds a nice subtle flavor while adding in all of the health benefits that garlic brings to the party!  I like to serve this with a nice slice (or two!) of my easy homemade bread; I'm telling you, dipping bread into this soup is just divine!  I'm sure, with my daughter starting preschool, I'll be making this soup a lot this year!