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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Something from (Almost) Nothing

Is there anybody who doesn't like a bowl of steaming hot soup on a winter evening? (As I write this, it's 88 degrees outside, but for a moment I'll imagine that it's still January.) Since my doctor recommended that I reduce my sodium intake, I've been avoiding canned soups. Homemade soups can be made with little or no salt, and often are much more nutritious than canned soups.

Over the winter months, I try to plan a soup dinner once a week. This started as a fun tradition, but also became a great way to save money. Soup vegetables tend to be inexpensive, and making soup is a fine way to use up the remains of a chicken, turkey, or ham that would otherwise be discarded.

I don't have any special tricks for making soup. I nearly always make soup after I've roasted a chicken or turkey. We don't make gravy from the pan drippings, so I save the pan drippings in a Pyrex measuring cup in the refrigerator. In the morning I skim off the top layer of solidified fat and add the drippings to the stock pot. I've found that this adds a lot of flavor and body to the stock.

I've seen a lot of recipes for chicken stock that start with raw chicken. Instead of purchasing a chicken for the purpose of making soup, I use the carcass of a roasted chicken, after I've trimmed off as much meat as possible. (Some of the meat will be added back to the soup, but--more than once--I've forgotten to add the meat, and the soup is still good!) My technique is similar to this, but I don't use leek, thyme, parsley, or bay leaf.

One of these days I'm going to make minestrone, but for now, it's mostly chicken soup for us. What soups do you like to make?


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