April 24, 2009

Pantry Soup

[caption id="attachment_161" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Chicken Soup"]Chicken Soup[/caption]

What's pantry soup? That's when you make a soup out of what you have in your pantry and freezer. The trick is to make sure you have a ready supply of the sorts of things you almost always need.

I make it a rule never to buy parts of a chicken, only the whole chicken. The only exception is when I buy chicken livers so that I can feed my friend's cat, Beau, his favorite treat--minced chicken livers with garlic. Recently I needed two chicken leg quarters to make dinner for two, so I was left with two half-breasts and a carcass. The two half-breasts went into freezer bags for later. The carcass I made into stock.

Another rule I follow is never throw away vegetable parts. I save all parts of carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms for stock-making. If I don't need them right away, they go into a freezer bag. Yes, they're better fresh. No, I don't always make stock right away.

[caption id="attachment_160" align="alignleft" width="256" caption="Chicken Soup Mise en Place"]Chicken Soup Mise en Place[/caption]

So, it was time to make lunch. The freezer yielded a quart of chicken stock, a chicken breast, and a bag of frozen peas. The crisper drawer yielded a carrot and celery stalk, plus half an onion from the previous night. I found some lemon pappardelle in a cupboard.

I brought the stock to a gentle boil and added the chicken breast to poach it. Meanwhile, I diced the mirepoix. Once the chicken was reasonably cooked, I pulled it out of the pot to cut it into bite-size chunks. The mirepoix and the chicken chunks went back into the pot along with the noodles. Any noodle would have been fine, or I could have added a grain like rice to make it gluten-free, waiting about 15 minutes to return the chicken to the pot. When the noodles were mostly done I added some frozen peas.

Total prep time? About 10 minutes while the chicken breast poached. Total cost? I'm not sure, but I'd estimate less than $2. That's two bucks. Or less. Because the chicken and stock were leftovers from other meals, the mirepoix couldn't have cost more than about 75 cents, I didn't use more than about 50 cents worth of frozen peas, and no more than 75 cents worth of noodles.

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