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
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
- Salt the chicken skin heavily and cover with a damp paper towel, leaving in the fridge overnight.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plate the hot soup, topping with crispy chicken skin, serving with crusty French baguette for dipping, if desired.