Chicken Soup is pretty much a standard in our households throughout the winter. This winter has been brutal for many across the country, and I imagine a lot of you are getting tired of the snow and the boring soup. As a Phoenician, I am not allowed to talk about winter, but I can speak with some authority about food. Sarah W. is back with a killer Chicken Soup recipe that gets its punch from cooking the onions in whiskey. While I haven’t had the honor of trying her “Midnight Whiskey” Chicken Soup, I did use her technique to make an onion and mushroom topping for crostini the other night, and WOW. I can’t wait to make the soup! Sarah is here to commiserate with her fellow snow-bound citizens and provide some much needed warmth. Take it away, Sarah!
April may be the cruelest month, but February sure has to be a close second. New England is in a state of emergency with record snowfalls, and the Midwest is seeing historically low temperatures. Records are being shattered. It really just makes you want to stay holed up inside for days. It’s too cold to play; the roads are too dangerous to navigate.
Being a Clevelander, growing up in the heart of the Snowbelt, I understand the snow gods. Every childhood Halloween costume was loose enough to fit over a snowsuit if the occasion called. After a record snowfall in elementary school, I remember watching the National Guard trucks drive past my house, ready to help dig out the schools and city buildings. I grew up with a big black dog who loved to play in the snow – some winters you could only see the tip of her nose and tail as she cavorted in the drifts. Snow will most likely be a factor in life as early as (late) October through possibly (early) April.
The lesson from this constant threat is to keep your freezer, pantry, and refrigerator well-stocked. All autumn, I buy extra everything and throw it in my freezer like a squirrel hiding nuts for the spring. The goal is to be ahead of the emergency announcements so that you’re not at the grocery store at 6pm on a Friday trying to stock up on necessities. No one wants to wait in line for an hour at the grocery store for canned soup, frozen dinners, and ramen. Nor should those foods be your sole emergency rations. By keeping a few basics on-hand, you can make something really tasty, bust out the candles when the power goes out, and build a pillow fort to occupy yourself when disaster strikes. That sounds more like a fun date night than an emergency, no?
The best food in this kind of weather is chicken soup. There can be no argument – it’s easy to prepare, doesn’t need your constant attention, fills you up, and leaves you noticeably warmer.
This chicken soup has a whiskey onion base, which adds a lot of depth of flavor, even if you shortcut by using boxed stock and pre-cooked chicken. Honestly, I use these shortcuts even when not in a state of emergency. With clever seasoning and a whiskey base, you can build a lot of complexity, and the goal when cooking should be to make something that is impressively good; it doesn’t have to be impressively hard to make or use impressive ingredients.
This soup is easy to throw together after a long day, it’s perfect to prepare early in the day to let simmer while you shovel, and it’s heaven in a bowl when you’re frozen to your core.
Notes on whiskey – I would recommend using a brand you’d enjoy drinking in a cocktail, but wouldn’t prefer to drink straight. In other words, use the whiskey you’d drink at midnight, rather than your first choice.
Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup
1 roasted chicken (or a few chicken breasts, really whatever chicken you have on-hand)
2 quarts chicken broth
4 large carrots
2 small onions, diced
1 ½ cups whiskey
Throw your onions in a stockpot over medium heat, then cover with a few splashes of whiskey and a drizzle of olive oil. Leave this uncovered as you prep the rest of your ingredients, adding more whiskey as it cooks off. This is going to imbue your onions with a lot of really good, deep flavor and add richness to your soup’s broth.
My friend Claire recently showed me this method, and I thought I’d try it out on my carrots. I tried to do quarter-to-half inch pieces. I ended up with something a bit bigger than expected, which is ok. New techniques often seem awkward until you’ve tried them enough times to really get them right.
Set your carrots aside, and get to your chicken. My favorite trick is to use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. If you have frozen chicken in your freezer, fantastic! Thaw them and dice them up. If you have leftover chicken from a previous meal, dice it up. If you have a whole chicken, strip the skin, remove the bones, and dice the meat up.
Throw your carrots and chicken into your stockpot, add about half your broth, and season. I am really loving Penzeys French Thyme in everything I make right now, and rosemary is a great poultry herb, so start from there. If your chicken was already cooked, feel free to taste your soup – add salt and pepper, maybe a drizzle of olive oil, maybe some ground chipotle pepper for some kick. If your chicken is raw, let your soup cook at least an hour before you taste (and check the chicken before you taste – raw chicken is the most terrifying kitchen thing).
Cover your pot and leave it at a simmer or slow boil for an hour or so, then add the rest of your broth and continue to taste and season. Let that simmer awhile, and voila! Soup!
And if you need a serving suggestion for a cozy evening, may I suggest…
What’s your favorite deceptively easy delicious dish for a snowed-in night? What are your best kitchen shortcuts and tricks?
Printer friendly recipe: Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup