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.

 

 

Stovetop Mustard Macaroni & Cheese

I put mustard in dishes that should not have mustard in them.  Mustard powder is great, but the real-deal condiment adds a great zing to just about everything, in my experience.

Taco meat? Add mustard. Tuna salad sandwiches? Let’s add some mustard. Hummus? Mustard. Clam chowder? Why not – where’s the mustard.

Did anyone else eat cheese and mustard sandwiches growing up? I never really missed the ham or turkey.  I was after that sharp cheddar cheese and French’s Yellow Mustard combo, with so much mustard it would ooze out the edges and seep through the holes in the bread if you pressed down on the sandwich.

The addition of yellow mustard and Dijon mustard to your typical tabletop mac and cheese did not disappoint – and it gave me validation to continue with my bizarre food experiments. I had been adding mustard powder to most of my stovetop macs, but the condiment adds a “what did you put in this?” mystery flavor that’s difficult to put your finger on.

Stovetop mac, if you haven’t made it before, can and should be a staple food in your household. Yes, even if you are kid-less. Admit that you want it – it’s OK, we all do.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is perfect in every way an iconic American staple food can be perfect. But you’re getting so much extra oomph mixing whatever yummy cheese you have on-hand in your fridge to your favorite short pasta, adding some milk or cream, and seasoning the gooey mixture to your heart’s content. Just make sure you’re adding some of the processed stuff – Kraft American Cheese Singles or Velveeta – I will arrest you if you don’t.

Mike Myers, featured in a 1992 blockbuster as the doofus Wayne in Wayne’s World, had his priorities straight when he asked:

“Pardon me sir – do you have any Grey Poupon?”

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 box short pasta
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, of your choosing
  • 10 Kraft American Cheese Singles
  • 3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, of your choosing
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, of your choosing
  • 3 / 4 cup half & half
  • 1 cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Boil a pot of water, cooking the pasta al dente according to package instructions. Reserve a cup of the cooking liquid before straining.
  2. In the same pot, add the butter, half & half, both mustards, salt and pepper. Immediately return the pasta to the pot.
  3. With the pot on low heat, add the cheeses and stir until the cheese and butter melts completely. Begin to stir in the cooking liquid in small pours until the mixture reaches desired consistency. The pasta will dry out over time, so if you’re going for seconds you may want to add more of the cooking liquid to “re-creamify” it.
  4. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

Philly Cheesesteak (According to a Local)

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the first thing about the authentic Philly cheesesteak experience.

My boyfriend, thankfully, is an expert in the topic having grown up not too far from downtown Philly in Wilmington, Delaware. And boy am I eager to learn.

He was insistent on a few things – namely that the beef must be sliced as thin as possible, and the cheese be gooey. Too much liquid would lead to soggy, undesirable buns. And the only rolls you are allowed to use are called Amoroso’s Rolls. Unable to get my hands on those rolls here in D.C., I settled for Portuguese rolls I found at the Whole Foods bakery. They have an airy, crisp crust and fluffy inside.

The exact response I received when I asked about a suitable substitute roll –

Well if it’s on an Amoroso Roll, you don’t need to worry about it getting soggy.

Alright. I get the point.

If you have a Taylor Gourmet in your vicinity, know that he ardently vouches for their Philly Cheesesteaks when he needs his fix.

To accompany the beef? Well, peppers are a no-no. Sautéed white onion, only. That, and no Cheeze Whiz – a misconception, apparently. Kraft Singles it is. And lots, lots of it.

But, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. So I added Worcestershire sauce and fresh garlic to this – I wanted their flavor profile here to up the savoriness factor.

My favorite part about this sandwich are the proportions. The sliced ribeye dominates, but the cheesy Kraft Singles glue the beef, onions and garlic together in a magical way. I couldn’t ask for a yummier, oozier sandwich.

How did he do, Philly cheesesteak aficionados? Is this as authentic as it gets? 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 2 sandwiches.

  • 2 hoagie rolls of your choosing
  • 3 / 4 pound boneless ribeye, sliced very thin
  • 1 / 2 medium onion, sliced thinly in half moons
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 Kraft American Single slices (yellow or white, but white is preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onions and sautee for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat until translucent. After 10 minutes, add the garlic and continue to sautee for an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the vegetables from the skillet and set aside for later. In the same pan, add the sliced beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Brown on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and almost all of the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Off the heat, add the Kraft Singles and the onion and garlic mixture, stirring until the Kraft Singles begin to melt into the beef and vegetables. This should only take 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Distribute the beef topping evenly on the rolls, smushing down to adhere the filling to the bread.
  5. Serve hot.

 

 

 

Buffa-nero Chicken Nuggets with Lemon-Lime Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce

I have this running joke that I’m a hot sauce addict.

Thank God for science, because we can prove that eating the capsaicin in chili peppers results in the release of endorphins, giving hot sauce an addictive quality. So I guess it isn’t so much a joke as an actual fact.

But I’m living in the right time and place. Because nowadays, there’s more hot sauces to choose from than we know what to do with. I love discovering new brands in the grocery store, because each one has their own flavor profile and affinity to certain foods that I can tease out over time.

More often than not, I’ve found that hot sauces tend to fall into one of these buckets.

  • Cayenne Pepper-Based Hot Sauces
  • Green Hot Sauces (Jalapeno, Serrano, Poblano)
  • Very Hot Hot Sauces (Ghost Pepper, Scotch Bonnet, Habanero)
  • Smoky Hot Sauces (Chipotle)
  • Buffalo Wing Hot Sauces
  • Authentic Asian Hot Sauces
  • Authentic Mexican Hot Sauces

At any given time, you will find somewhere between fifteen and twenty hot sauce bottles on the door of my fridge.  There is a systematic approach to this madness. Some of the hot sauces are sparingly reserved for select foods – while others can go on just about anything.

Here’s a look into the best food & hot sauce combinations I’ve pinpointed in over a quarter lifetime of trial and error. Most are pretty obvious, but some are unexpectedly perfect when you take that bite. And because some of the hot sauces I’d like to call out by name are hard to come by – i.e. bought at an airport in Mexico, I’m just including the easy-to-find varieties you can buy almost anywhere.

  • Tabasco (Original) – Runny Eggs, Burritos, Raw Seafood, Potato Salad, Clam Chowder
  • Tabasco (Chipotle) – Steak, Chicken, Mixed Kebabs, Ribs, Rice Bowls, Roasted Nuts
  • Tabasco (Jalapeno) – Beans, Lentils, Bruschetta, Guacamole
  • Tabasco (Scorpion) – Ceviche, Honey-Mustard Sauce, Hearty Seafood, Tamales, Polenta, Onion Dip, Scotch Eggs
  • Crystal – Macaroni & Cheese, Fried Chicken, Hashbrowns, Sausages, Biscuits, Pot Pies, Gratins, Grits
  • Texas Pete’s (Original) – Mashed Potatoes, Pot Roast, Jambalaya
  • Cholula (Original) – Scrambled Eggs, French Fries, Grilled & Roasted Vegetables, BLTs, Tomato Soup
  • Cholula (Green Pepper) – Lamb, Hot Dogs, Cheeseburgers, Corn Salad, Avocados
  • Cholula (Chili Garlic) – Fried Rice, Chili, Roasted Chicken, In Salad Dressings, Hummus, Popcorn, Chicken Tenders
  • Sriracha – Salads, Soups, Pizza, Sushi, Hard Boiled Eggs, Slaws, Mixed into Ranch Dressing, Mixed into Ketchup
  • Tapatio – Mixed into Pico de Gallo, Enchiladas, Tacos
  • Valentina – Cocktails, Mixed into Queso, Refried Beans, Breakfast Burritos
  • Frank’s RedHot (Wings Sauce) – Buffalo Chicken Dip, Cobb Salad, Chicken-Fried Steak, Pasta Salad

What are some of your must-have combinations? Any hot sauces you swear by? If it’s as good as you say it is, I guess you’re giving me the go ahead to buy just one more bottle. Right?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes approximately 40 nuggets.

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups habanero hot sauce of your choosing
  • 1 habanero, minced
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 24 oz. vegetable or canola oil

F o r  t h e  L e m o n – L i m e  G o r g o n z o l a  D i p p i n g  S a u c e

  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 1 lime, juiced & zested
  • 4 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the chicken cubes in the buttermilk and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the dredge ingredients – the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter, and combine it with the hot sauce and minced habanero. Set aside.
  4. Combine the dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl, and allow to sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  5. To dredge the nuggets, remove the chicken from the buttermilk, roll in the flour, put back in the buttermilk and coat, and then roll in the flour a second time. Repeat for all chicken cubes, placing them in one layer on a large clean plate.
  6. In the meantime, heat the oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure there is about an inch of oil in the skillet, adding more if needed. Heat until you can feel the heat rising off the oil. To test if the oil is ready, put a pinch of flour into the hot oil and see if it begins to bubble and sizzle. If it’s too hot or too cool, adjust the heat.
  7. Once the oil is ready, place the nuggets in the oil with tongs, being sure not to crowd the meat. When you see the chicken is golden brown on the underside, flip the chicken to the other side to finish frying. Remove the cooked chicken and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
  8. Once all the chicken nuggets are cooked, toss them in a large bowl with the hot sauce mixture until all nuggets are completely coated with the sauce.
  9. Serve immediately alongside the dipping sauce.

Diner-Style Deviled Ham Hash

In this next post of my “no-no” mystery meat recipe series, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite canned meats – Underwood Deviled Ham.

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If you haven’t had it already, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Not for me of course – I loved it from day one. But it’s as American as red, white and blue. If you didn’t eat it growing up, my gut tells me you might – with an emphasis on the word might – not like trying it for the first time as an adult.

My boyfriend wasn’t a fan. He said he wouldn’t feed it to the dog.

You have to give this a try. For anyone who is familiar with this delectable max-processed delicacy, or still reading even after this cautious introduction, you’ll soon realize this is the breakfast hash that was missing in your life.

Deviled ham has a similar flavor to Spam, or any sodium-heavy canned meat product you’ll find in the grocery store. I used to eat it straight from the can. The most typical way to serve it is between two slices of mayo-smeared white bread topped with iceberg lettuce – right where it belongs.

I’ll usually keep a few cans of Hormel’s Corned Beef Hash in my pantry. This recipe is a home-cooked variation of the canned hash, using fresh potatoes and swapping out the corned beef for the deviled ham.

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The ham and potatoes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Alongside a couple of sunny side up eggs, this is just what the doctor ordered when you’re craving a greasy, filling diner-style breakfast.

I went to town and back on this. I probably met my sodium quota for the month. I don’t know about you – but if this hash gives me yet another excuse to eat deviled ham, my GP and I are completely on board with that.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 can Underwood Deviled Ham
  • 1 / 3 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onion, potato, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, cooking on medium heat until the potatoes are near golden and crisp and the onions are near translucent.
  2. Once the hash is almost done, add the deviled ham. Continue to cook the hash so the ham has a chance to crisp up.
  3. Plate the hash and serve hot, with a couple of sunny side up eggs and hot sauce, if desired.