Some nights you just need a bowl of chicken soup.
Not because you’re particularly poorly. Not because you’ve got a gaping whole in your soul that can only be cosseted by poultry fat.
You might have got a parking ticket. You might have accidentally sent a reply all email with something unflattering in it – and clenching your fingers into claws, sniffing through your nose and making a face like you’ve got stomach cramps isn’t making it any better.
You might be hating yourself for watching any of ‘Kim’s Fairytale Wedding’, when you could have been improving yourself. Or you might just be feeling a little – stuck.
Whatever paltry reason, chicken soup is a good thing when you’re faltering.
For one it’s easy. For two, it looks like you’re taking care of yourself. For three; it’s an excellent carriage for other well meaning tag alongs; whether snap peas or bits of green (broccoli, peas, asparagus, I’m all looking at you). And for four; it gives you an excuse to make crispy chicken skin crackling as a croutons.
This isn’t a thin, clear inspid soup. It’s more of a veloute; a blonde roux of muddled butter and flour that gets whisked with chicken stock until it’s got a bit more padding. You then gently poach the chicken in the same pot and throw in your greens at the end.
A swirl of pesto over the top helps make it a bit more interesting. Pesto and chicken may not belong together on a pizza, but in a bowl of soup they get along quite well.
When it comes to the crunch you could make a piece of toast. You could make croutons. Or you could take the two pieces of chicken skin that you skimmed off the chicken flesh -in the same way you peel wax from your shins. Stretch them out in a fry pan, sprinkle liberally with sea salt and turn up the heat until they pucker and crunch. Dry the crispy skin on paper towel before floating on the top of a soup.
This is a meal that helps things shift. It helps bring new perspective; not only on how great chicken skin is, but on life. Particularly if you’re like me and burn the shizzle out of my index finger on steam when you add too-hot-stock to the roux (steam burns hotter than pans).
But at least a sore finger gave me something else to focus on rather than self indulgent twaddle that was taking up the rest of my head.
Chicken soup with chicken skin croutons
1 fry pan (to fry the chicken skin) 1 saucepan. 1 whisk.
1 chicken breast, cut into thin strips
2 chicken thighs, cut into thin strips
2 pieces of chicken skin (seperated from either the breast or the thigh)
1.5 tablespoon butter
1 cup of sugar snap peas
1.5 tablespoons of plain flour
2 cups of good quality chicken stock (home made is best, but otherwise from a carton. I wouldn’t try with a stock cube- it won’t taste the same)
2 tablespoons of pesto (blend toasted pine nuts, basil and parmesan cheese with olive oil and some salt- or take from a jar)
Salt and pepper (don’t be shy with either)
Here’s how we roll
1) Melt the butter in a saucepan. Sift in the flour and stir over a low- medium heat for 5-10 minutes until it has turned a light fawn colour and joined into a ball.
2) Heat the chicken stock in the frypan or in a microwave. Pour the chicken stock into the saucepan (careful, the steam can burn).
3) Whisk the roux and the chicken stock over a low- medium heat until all you have a smooth texture. If you’re really in trouble and you can’t get the lumps out then you can pass it through a sieve.
4) Start making your chicken skin croutons. Dry the skin with paper towel and then stretch it out in a frypan. Sprinkle with salt.
Turn up the heat to high and let it crisp on one side, then turn to the other. When it is crisp, dry on paper towel.
5) Add the chicken pieces to your soup and keep the heat on a low simmer (don’t boil) and allow the chicken to poach for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Then add the snap peas or the other greens. Put a lid on for 2 minutes. Taste and season generously with salt and pepper.
6) Serve the soup in bowls with a teaspoon of pesto in the centre and the chicken skin croutons.