Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore Soup

Sunday all over the east coast was a dreary, cool, rainy kind of day, a not yet spring, hanging on the cusp kind of day. A non-motivating kind of read the Sunday paper day where the dog wraps herself around your feet to ward off the damp rawness kind of day. A true soup day.

I'd already been down to the restaurant and made lunch for some friends who traveled over from Northern Virginia and on the way out the door to come back home, I thought about grabbing something for dinner, but then I thought that surely there must be enough stuff in my admittedly bare refrigerator for a pot of soup.

I knew I had a chicken carcass in the fridge and if you've got a chicken, you've got soup. Roast chicken on Monday night yields Monday night dinner, another meal later in the week, and a big pot of soup on Sunday. At least it does for our family of four that is not terribly meat-oriented. Chickens are most useful creatures to have in the fridge.

My wife was traveling and I called her to find out if she had any ideas about what kind of soup she wanted, she being the picky one, and surprisingly she said she wanted something with tomatoes in it. Usually, she claims she doesn't care until it gets on the table and then it's not what she wanted. ;)

That got me thinking and suddenly Chicken Cacciatore popped into my head. I decided that I wanted a soup that was similar to a very thin pizza sauce, without a whole lot of texture, basically a tomato soup. While I would put large chunks of vegetables in my Chicken Cacciatore, I decided to minimize them for this soup.

The key to the following recipe is the quality of the stock: the more intensely flavored the stock, the better. I would say that if you are not going to find a lazy day to make stock, you're going to find this soup very disappointing.

I just happened to have a ham bone in my fridge too, which went into my stock pot with the chicken carcass, the chicken roasting juices, and some celery scraps. After two hours, I strained the stock and reduced it to about a quart and a half of intense chicken goodness with a little country ham background. I picked and chopped the chicken while the beagle ensured that the floor stayed spotless.

Chicken Cacciatore Soup

1-1/2 quarts chicken stock
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, finely diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 cups cooked chicken, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the chicken stock, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, basil, and oregano and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the onion is done. Stir in the chicken and season to taste.

I decided not to precook the onion and garlic. It could have been laziness, the desire not to dirty another pan, or perhaps I just wanted to go with the more dominant flavor of raw garlic. I didn't have to add any salt because of the ham bone in my stock. And because my tomatoes were really ripe, I didn't need to add any sugar to counter their acidity.

Red and green peppers and mushrooms would be really good in this soup, but as I said, I was just going for a simple tomato soup. It was simply delicious.

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