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.

 

 

Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup

Another rainy day, another bowl of bubbling hot spicy soup. There’s not much else to do when it’s pouring out, and who doesn’t love an excuse to stay at home and cook all day?

I bought too many jalapenos and wanted to find a way to make them the centerpiece of a soup. So here we are – with jalapeno two ways – fresh and smoked.

Smoked jalapenos, if you’re not already familiar, are called chipotle peppers. You can find them canned in their sauce in any grocery store.

Chipotle, as it so happens, is also the namesake of my favorite fast food restaurant. As in, “If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you eat?” – my answer would be Chipotle.  No really – I ate Chipotle 4 to 5 days a week in high school for two years.

The flavor of chipotle is smoky, incredibly hot, and very addictive. I keep bags of it frozen in my freezer. Throw it in anything Tex-Mex – it’s like the Tex-Mex equivalent of barbecue sauce, incredibly versatile.

Your start to this soup is a roux, much like any chowder. It creates a thicker, stewy feel to the soup. I bet chicken and beans would be great in here as well if you wanted to bulk it up a bit, but I’m happiest when I get the full flavor of the cheese and the spices.

What’s your favorite go-to rainy day soup?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 / 3 quart whole milk
  • 1 1 / 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 / 2 small onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper sauce (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, add the flour, stirring for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the milk, whisking until there’s no visible clumps of flour. Continue to cook on medium heat until it thickens and the mixture coats a spoon.
  2. In a separate saute pan drizzled with olive oil, add the onion, jalapenos, garlic, chipotle peppers, chipotle pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Saute for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent.
  3. Once the vegetables are tender, add them to the soup. Then add the cheese, and stir until completely incorporated. Serve, garnishing with additional jalapeno slices and a drizzle of extra chipotle pepper sauce, if desired.

Habanero Pepper Soup

What’s your most unrelenting food addiction?

Mine is over-the-top spicy food. Dangerously hot. I cannot adequately emphasize the level of spice that I like in my food.

I’ve let myself go, totally. Maybe in some other ways too. Especially since I adopted a 4-month-old rescue dog – Jesus, you should see my apartment. Hot sauce bottles and torn furniture everywhere.

I take swigs of Tabasco straight from the bottle. Red pepper flakes don’t do it for me anymore. It pretty much has to be a habanero-based sauce, or something that purportedly sets a normal person’s mouth on fire.

A spicy soup can be anything you want it to be. You just need broth and spice. When the mood hits me, I’ll dig in my pantry & fridge in an attempt to alleviate this craving.

I bet this might cure up a nasty sinus infection bout or a low-grade cold. In rummaging through my fridge & using what I had on hand, this turned out to be the best combination of lingering spicy heat, garlicky flavors, a teeny bit of sweet & animal-based fats that will satisfy that “itch.” Put a poached egg on top if you need a bit more substance.

Keep a box of Kleenex nearby, because your nose is going to run like crazy. But the burn will feel good, so good. And it will be worth it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This dish serves 2 spicy-food lovers. 

  • 1 liter high-quality chicken or seafood stock (College Inn is a good brand)
  • 1 / 2 habanero pepper, sliced
  • 1 / 2 habanero pepper, minced
  • 1 / 2 jalapeno pepper, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 8 tablespoons coconut milk (or 6 tablespoons heavy cream)
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 1 / 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar (if using heavy cream instead of coconut milk, add 4 tablespoons of sugar)

O p t i o n a l

  • 1 egg, lightly poached
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil, for finishing

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil over medium-low heat for 3 – 4 minutes. Add the stock, sliced habanero and jalapeno peppers, Sriracha, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Allow to come to a boil.
  2. Once heated through, add the coconut milk or heavy cream. Simmer for 15 minutes uncovered.
  3. After 15 minutes, plate in shallow bowls, garnish with sliced scallions, minced habanero peppers, and a poached egg, if desired.
  4. Serve hot, drizzling with spicy sesame oil for garnish, if desired.