Cream of Chicken Soup with Crispy Chicken Skin

You know that can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup that’s been sitting in your pantry?

In a pinch for casseroles, there’s nothing more handy than the premade stuff we’ve all been eating since childhood, whether we knew it or not. But eating it out of the can on its own can be a disappointing experience.

So why not make it at home?

Think of it like a creamy soup – but glorified chicken goodness. If you’re really going for a decadent soup, especially one where the chicken-ness is center stage, homemade chicken stock is the must of musts.

Here’s my secret to great chicken stock – go easy on yourself, and allow room to be versatile with substitutes. It’s more important to have homemade chicken stock on hand, than to go for the store-bought stuff just because you were missing an ingredient necessary to satisfy a recipe requirement. No onions? Use the scallions in your fridge. No fresh parsley? Use dried parsley.

When I cook chicken stock, my proportions of vegetables and herbs that go with the chicken are different every single time, with the exception of equal proportions carrots, celery, along with a bulb of fresh garlic and a small handful of black peppercorns.

In my experience, you typically need to have those flavor profiles to get that homey “chicken stock” taste – but the other flavor enhancers are entirely up to you. Parsnips, fresh herbs, onions – whatever it is.

And when it comes to the type of chicken used to produce the stock, we all know a whole, fresh chicken is the gold standard. In my case, it’s a matter of using up a frozen chicken carcass and some unwanted giblets, maybe a couple of bone-in frozen chicken thighs. It’s all chicken, and it’s all full of flavor (in some cases, maybe more so), so why waste it?

This soup is really as simple as pulling together a roux like you would for any gratin or cheese sauce, adding some homemade chicken stock, and throwing in some chicken-complimentary veggies like carrots and celery.

The pièce de résistance in this recipe, though, is the crispy chicken skin. Which frankly is so good I’d recommend eating it on its own, or serving it as a party appetizer. It’s up there with bacon in my book.

And I’m pretty sure if it hasn’t taken off already as the new trendy culinary “thing,” it’s on its way up.

To prepare the chicken skins, if you have the time, allow them to dry out in the fridge overnight seeped in a layer of salt – this is all in an attempt to dehydrate the skin as much as possible. It’ll make for an assuredly crispy bite.

But if you don’t have the time, or forget, which I’ve been known to do in make-ahead recipe steps like this one, you can always just throw them immediately in the oven.

My mind started to wander to all sorts of types of cream-of soup possibilities – cream of mushroom and tomato are classics – but then I thought of cream of beef, poblano pepper, pumpkin, olive oil. I’m likely to do some experimenting. Stay posted. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  C h i c k e n  S k i n s

  • Skin from two chicken breasts
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

F o r  t h e  S o u p

  • 4 to 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 liter homemade chicken stock, recipe below
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 stalks celery, cut thin
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, plus additional as needed
  • Crusty baguette, for dipping

F o r  t h e  C h i c k e n  S t o c k

  • Approximately 3 pounds chicken pieces
  • 3 carrots, cut into large pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1 garlic bulb, cut in half crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch fresh herbs, tied with kitchen twine
  • Enough water to barely cover the chicken and other ingredients

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Salt the chicken skin heavily and cover with a damp paper towel, leaving in the fridge overnight.
  2. Boil the chicken stock ingredients for 6 hours, until the vegetables are falling apart and the chicken meat is dry. Strain the chicken stock through a colander into a large bowl. Store the stock in quart containers.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350*. Put the chicken skins on parchment paper on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place a heavy casserole dish on top of the chicken skins to flatten so they bake evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.
  4. Melt the butter in a pot, and add the celery, sautéing for 4 or so minutes on medium heat until the vegetables soften. Add the flour, and whisk until the flour and the butter form a thick paste. Add the milk, and whisk until incorporated. Still on medium heat, add the chicken stock, stirring until the soup begins to thicken. Taste for seasonings, adjusting as necessary. The soup is done when it reaches a clam chowder consistency.
  5. Plate the hot soup, topping with crispy chicken skin, serving with crusty French baguette for dipping, if desired.

 

 

Apple Cider Roast Chicken

Ina Garten is famous for her roast chickens, especially the ones she makes each Friday for Jeffrey when he comes home for the weekend. I love that about her. When you see how she prepares the chicken, it’s incredibly simple. I have rarely seen her use anything beyond salt, pepper, olive oil, a bulb of garlic cut in half and stuffed inside the cavity, with some potatoes or lemons in the pan. With that many roast chickens under her belt, I have to assume she knows something we don’t.

Her Roast Engagement Chicken for example is perfectly simple – and completely encapsulates her style of cooking.

There’s really not too much work that goes into roasting a chicken – it’s something you can do without reading a recipe. Ruth Reichl recently posted a tweet illustrating exactly how simple roast chicken can and should be:

Just roasted a fresh Kinderhook Farm chicken.  Did nothing – put it into a hot oven. Best chicken I’ve ever tasted.

While this roast chicken calls for a slew of ingredients, it’s really up to you which spices to include. I went for a series of warm, autumn spice flavors. The apple cider works here the same way applesauce goes so well with pork.

I love allspice, cloves and star anise. Some folks don’t like the licorice flavor of star anise – so I’d encourage them to leave it out.

If you do like this combination of flavors – know that if you fill a shallow pan with simmering water and add a splash of vanilla, along with a handful of these spices, your kitchen is going to smell like autumn bliss for hours. I do this every so often and it puts me in a cozy cold weather mood.

There’s wiggle room with the vegetables as well – parsnips, sweet potatoes or other autumn root vegetables would be delicious. Just make sure you keep a savory element, allium vegetables like garlic and onions help offset the sweetness of the cider, cinnamon and vanilla.

Happy roasting, friends! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 4 to 5 lb. fresh chicken, giblets removed
  • 1 stick room temperature butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 – 3 inch pieces
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 2 – 3 inch pieces
  • 1 small white onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and parboiled
  • 2 cups apple cider, plus 4 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon allspice (not ground)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 1 tablespoon pepper, plus additional as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Take the chicken out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pat the skin dry, including the cavity, with a paper towel.
  3. After an hour, sprinkle the cavity liberally with salt and pepper, and put the quartered onions inside. Truss the chicken legs with kitchen twine.
  4. Combine the butter, 4 tablespoons apple cider, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Gently loosen the top layer of the skin above each of the breasts with your fingers, and evenly distribute 1 / 3 of the butter mixture under each half of the chicken. Place one cinnamon stick under each half as well. Then rub the remaining 1 / 3 of the butter mixture over the rest of the chicken.
  5. Stud the top of the chicken with the cloves, and dot with star anise down the spine of the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with approximately 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.
  6. Toss the carrots, pearl onions, and potatoes with enough olive oil to moisten and a large pinch of salt and a larch pinch of pepper.
  7. Place the vegetables in the bottom of the pan. Pour the 2 cups of cider into the pan with the vegetables. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables.
  8. Cook the chicken for 20 minutes per pound – periodically removing the chicken from the oven and basting it with the cider juices from the bottom of the pan, approximately 2 to 3 times while cooking.
  9. To test the doneness of the chicken, cut the groove between the leg and the breast, and if the liquids run clear, the chicken is done. Or, wait until the chicken breast reads *165 on a kitchen thermometer.
  10. To serve the chicken, remove the star anise cinnamon sticks, and carve using Julia Child’s technique (carving starts at about 26:00). If you want a thicker sauce for serving, remove the pan juices to a saucepan, and simmer until it thickens to desired consistency.
  11. Plate the vegetables, juices and all, with the chicken presented on top.

 

Brown Butter Bacon & Shrimp Risotto

My job requires travel to Louisiana. Due to lingering hours waiting for connecting flights at airports, I’ve had ample time to hone in on where to eat the minute I land.

I was interested to hear from a Lafayette native that northern Louisiana – specifically north of Alexandria if you drew a line across – embodies an entirely different culture than the southern half, which she claims has a more Cajun attitude toward food and life.

Louisiana natives, what is a Cajun attitude toward life? Because whatever that is, I’m pretty sure I want it.

I had flown into Shreveport and noticed there were a lot of Mexican restaurants. All makes sense, as someone described the Shreveport area as “Eastern Texas.” But I was set on Cajun food this trip.

Some research into the best restaurants in the Shreveport area yielded Crawdaddy’s Kitchen and Marilynn’s Place – and Marilynn’s Place ended up being the place to go, because it was the closest stop from the airport and I was I’m About To Pass Out-level hungry.

Side question for local Louisianans – what other standbys do folks recommend in the Shreveport area?

I love southern flavors, I think. But one thing I have quickly assumed to be true – is that there’s probably no such thing. I’m no expert in southern food, and I wish I was. I’ve just noticed that there’s an added emphasis on seafood, spices, and deep smoky flavors, compared to other American cuisines. All things I’m a loud fan of.

Back home and inspired to cook something southern-tasting, this recipe came to mind.

The roux which serves as the foundation for many southern meals, most notably Jambalaya, was the inspiration for the brown butter used start to this risotto off.

The rest of the cooking is relatively predictable – it’s a risotto after all!

I think a bold, homemade seafood stock made from prawn carcasses would be an amazing cooking liquid for this instead, but here I just used store-bought chicken stock.

The other reason to love risotto? It’s therapy. A slow, mindless process that quells the busy thoughts – at least for me. Maybe this is the Cajun way to eat – take-your-time kind of food. I hope you enjoy. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 liter chicken stock (I like College Inn)
  • 2 / 3 cup parm reg
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 10 slices hardwood smoked bacon, small diced
  • 1 / 2 white onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 dozen shrimp, almost cooked through and cut in\ bite sized pieces, plus additional whole shrimp for garnish, if desired
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce, if desired
  • Hot peppers of your choosing, if desired

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the stock until it’s simmering – you will be ladling heated stock into the risotto throughout the cooking process.
  2. In a large pot, brown the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove from the pot. Add the onions, sprinkling with a dash of salt. Saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape up any brown drippings from the bacon on the bottom of the pan.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, heat the butter. Cook on medium-low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until the milk solids begin to brown. Remove from the heat as soon as you see the liquid turn golden.
  4. Add the butter to the onions, garlic, and add the bacon back into the pot.
  5. Stir in the arborio rice, and allow to absorb some of the liquid from the pot and toast lightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add a ladle of stock and stir. Keeping the heat on medium-low, gently stir the rice intermittently, and when the rice appears to get a bit dry, add more stock. After about 20 minutes, test the doneness of the rice. The rice should be al-dente, and the consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
  7. At this point, add the parm reg, and stir until incorporated. Then add the shrimp, and stir until heated through, cooking for an additional 2 minutes or so.
  8. Serve hot, topped with Louisiana Hot Sauce, sliced hot peppers, and extra shrimp, if desired.

Deviled Jalapenos

What makes a food devilable?

Because I would devil a glass of water if I could.

I’ve oogled over Trisha Yearwood’s Deviled Potatoes. And recently, learned about a deviled crab recipe that originated in the American south. I’m sure there’s a million versions. A food capable of holding in filling must be a requirement, but I gave my imagination ample space to run wild after that.

jalapenos4

Enter jalapenos.

This wouldn’t cut it as a crowd-pleasing recipe – I don’t think. You can remove the seeds and membranes, and leave out the pickled jalapeno if you need to cut some of the burn, but you’re still chomping into a raw jalapeno.

An obvious alternative? Use the sweet, small tri-colored peppers you can usually get in bulk at any grocery store nowadays. If you want to go this route, just substitute the sweet peppers and nix the pickled jalapeno – the preparation instructions will remain the same, with an equally scrumptious outcome.

I’ve been contemplating new ideas for game day bites that can be made ahead of time and tossed on the coffee table. I’ve already made enough buffalo chicken dip in my life to fill a 10-foot hole in the ground.

But my boyfriend can’t tolerate spicy food, even in moderate amounts. I had purportedly added hot sauce to a dish, and after a minute of did-I-didn’t-I, we realized he was feeling heat from the black pepper that must’ve been a bit too freshly cracked.

I haven’t isolated a hard and fast rule as to what makes something deviled. One of my earlier blog posts for Tuna Nicoise Deviled Eggs recounts the history of the word deviled, which essentially meant anything heavily seasoned. Like the deviled egg, this recipe includes dairy ingredients, and presents itself halves-side-open.

deviledjalapenos2

Whether it’s the jalapenos or the sweet peppers that appeal to you, you aren’t going to disappoint your guests with a dairy-saturated cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and aromatic garlic filling.

And it’s about time I gave Buffalo Chicken Dip a much-deserved break.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 10 jalapenos, all cut in half longwise, with half the peppers minced
  • 1 / 2 block room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 / 4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated finely
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 3 to 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  •  5 pepperoncinis, minced, for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Plate 10 jalapeno halves, mincing the remaining jalapeno halves for including in the filling. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a bowl, combine the minced jalapeno, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, and most of the pepperoncinis, reserving 3 to 4 minced tablespoons for garnish.
  3. Equally distribute the filling amongst the jalapeno halves, overfilling them a little bit. Top each half with the remaining pepperoncini.
  4. Pop the plate in the fridge to allow the peppers to chill.
  5. Serve within 2 hours, or the pepper flesh will begin to dry out and shrivel.

 

Hen of the Woods Pasta Alfredo

I’ve kept my eye out for Hen of the Woods mushrooms ever since I saw a recipe on Lucky Peach that chicken fried the mushroom cap southern-style, and threw it in between two sesame buns.

I did some searching online, and Forager Chef, a stunning blog I immediately bookmarked to my browser, published a very similar recipe to the one I remember.

I love the concept of chicken frying. Chicken fried steak? With gravy? F$#&ing outstanding.

I had never come across the mushroom until I went to the FRESHFARM farmer’s market in Dupont Circle the other day. The mushrooms there were a sight to behold.

There’s a strain I learned about called Lion’s Mane mushrooms that appeared, assuredly, to be a ball of fur. The texture was coral-like. I couldn’t believe it was edible. And couldn’t imagine being the first person to take a bite, demonstrating for us all that they are in fact, edible.

Having just fried a portabella mushroom to create the vegetarian Molten ‘Shroom Burger, I wanted to find another recipe that would throw the mushroom onto center stage. And I decided on a mushroom and garlic-infused alfredo sauce. Needlessly heavy on the cream, butter and parm reg, as always.

The turnout couldn’t have been more on point – and since garlic and mushrooms love each other so much, I figured if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and held back from veering too far from that standard flavor combination, with the exception of ground nutmeg.

You’ll want to make a full pound of this, for indulging in later. Speaking from recent experience, this first bite is addictive in the worst and best way possible.

I N G R E D I E N T S

I suppose this serves 4, but it could serve 1. It depends on how much self-restraint you have.

  • 1 pound Hen of the Woods mushrooms, torn or sliced into 1 to 2 inch pieces, stems included
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 / 2 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons truffle butter
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta, or another long pasta of your choosing
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • 1 cup parm reg, plus additional for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper, plus additional for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid before draining.
  2. In the meantime, in a large sauté pan, melt the truffle butter. When foaming, add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown and release their fluid. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and transfer a few mushroom slices to a separate bowl for garnish later.
  3. Once the pasta is drained, add it immediately to the pan with the mushrooms, followed by the remaining ingredients – butter, heavy cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and all but some of the parm reg.
  4. The pasta will thicken quickly once it starts to soak up the cream and butter. Use the reserved pasta cooking liquid to thin out the sauce.
  5. Once the cheese is melted and the mixture is uniform throughout, plate the pasta, topping with extra parm reg, slices of the mushroom, and a sprinkling of crushed black peppercorns, if desired.