Monthly Archives: October 2010

Wishing for Chicken Soup

To say that I have been doing a lot of travelling lately would be an understatement.  Over the course of 8 days, in the later half of October I was on 6 airline flights.  I was in Philadelphia to help my aunt celebrate her 80th birthday.  From there I flew to Tel Aviv to help my brother-in-law celebrate his 50th birthday (and what a celebration that was!) and then went to Boston to visit my daughter for “Family Weekend” at her college. 

This is all a long winded way of telling you that now I am sick!  I’m not surprised.  Breathing in everyone else’s germs on all those flights was bound to lead to this.  My throat is sore, I have a headache and I am coughing something fierce.  I was lying in bed feeling sorry for myself and wishing for some of my mom’s chicken soup.  Since I live in Ottawa and she lives in Toronto, that wish wasn’t about to come true.  So I hauled my sad self out of bed and made my own.  Of course I had to share with you.

Making good chicken soup is a lot like making good bread.  It takes time.  But it is unattended time.  You can be busy doing other things (like coughing and sneezing and napping) while the soup cooks.  There are only two things you need to know to make good chicken soup.  The first is that you must use chicken stock, not water, as the liquid.  The second is that you must allow enough time to chill the soup, after cooking, so that all the fat can be removed.  If you follow these two rules, you will have wonderful chicken soup.

Chicken stock is a mystery to many people.  Exactly what is it and how is it made?  Stock is simply chicken bones, simmered, in water, with aromatic vegetables (typically, carrots, onion and celery) until the bones have given every ounce of their flavour to the liquid.  This usually takes about 2-3 hours.

In every good restaurant you will find a pot of stock simmering on the back burner.  Throughout the day, chicken bones and vegetable scraps are thrown into the pot.  At the end of the day the pot is strained and the liquid is chilled overnight.  The next day the hardened fat is skimmed from the pot and the remaining liquid is used in soups and sauces.  It can be used in place of water for cooking rice and other grains. Good stock is the foundation for great tasting soups.  Chicken bones are easily purchased from the  butcher . (what did you think they did with the bones after deboning all those chicken breasts?)

Exact recipes for chicken stock and chicken soup can be found at the end of this post, but here is a pictoral version.

Begin by making a big pot of chicken stock.  Fill a large pot with about 8 pounds of chicken bones and fill with cold water, just covering the bones.  Bring to a boil and then remove the foam from the top layer.

Add some carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley stems. Simmer for 2 hours.

Now your chicken stock is done.  Just strain the liquid and discard all the solids. (I like to save the carrots.  Although they have no nutritional value whatsoever after being cooked for 2 hours, they are delicious and I add them to my finished soup)  Pour the strained stock over fresh chicken bones and a whole chicken.  Bring to a boil, remove foam from top, add fresh carrots, celery, onions. bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stems.  Simmer for 2 more hours.

After the bones and chicken have given all their flavour (about 2 hours) strain the soup.  I save these carrots as well, to add to my finished soup.  Using 2 forks, remove skin and bones from whole chicken and shred the meat into bite sized pieces.  Put reserved carrots and shredded chicken into fridge. Let pot of strained soup sit on the counter until cooled a little bit.  Cover pot and chill in fridge overnight.  The next day, remove layer of hardened fat off the top. 

 Bring soup to a boil, add salt and pepper to season.  Add carrots, chicken and some boiled wide egg noodles.  Serve. Sigh!

Then make a wish to feel better so you can travel somewhere warm to escape the snow! (yes it snowed last night in Ottawa!)

Chicken Soup

Click here to print recipe

Serves 6 

1 whole chicken
7 pounds chicken bones
12 cups chicken stock (recipe below)
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch lengths
2 celery stalks (with leaves), cut into 2 inch lengths
2 parsley stems (not the leaves)
10 black whole peppercorns
1 dried bay leaf
salt and black pepper to taste
chopped parsley and/or dill
cooked egg noodles or white rice, if desired

  1. Pour chicken stock into a large stockpot.  Add chicken bones and whole chicken and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low and, using a slotted spoon, skim off the foam that has risen to the top.  Add vegetables, bay leaf, parsley stems and whole peppercorns.  Let simmer for about 2 hours.
  2. Strain the soup and transfer it to a clean pot.  I love the flavour of the cooked carrots, so I always save them to serve in the soup.  Using 2 forks, remove skin and bones from whole chicken and shred the meat into bite sized pieces.  Discard all bones and other vegetables.
  3. Put reserved carrots and shredded chicken into fridge. Let pot of strained soup sit on the counter until cooled a little bit.  Cover pot and chill in fridge overnight.  The next day, remove layer of hardened fat off the top. 
  4. Bring cold soup to a boil. Turn down heat and add cooked egg noodles or rice, reserved carrots and chicken and simmer for about 5 minutes,  Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and/or dill.

Chicken Stock

Makes 12 cups

8 pounds chicken bones
12 cups cold water
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots , peeled and cut into 2 inch lengths
2 celery stalks (with leaves), cut into 2 inch lengths
2 dried bay leaves
2 parsley stems (not the leaves)
10 whole black peppercorns

  1. Place bones and water in a stockpot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer and using a slotted spoon, skim off any foam on the surface.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours.
  3. Strain liquid and discard all the vegetables and bones.
  4. Refrigerate stock and remove layer of fat from the top.  Use stock as needed, or freeze in small containers for a later use.  Stock keeps well in the freezer for 4 months.

Happy Birthday To Me!

Every family has their own birthday traditions.  When I was growing up, birthdays were celebrated with a “Deluxe Bakery” (Deluxe was actually the name of the bakery) cake, complete with pink buttercream flowers, which my sisters and I fought over.  Now that I have my own children I let each of them choose their favourite cake and I bake it for them.  My youngest always picks chocolate.  My middle child usually selects something challenging for me to recreate.  One year it was a treasure box, another year we made a swimming pool, complete with bright blue Jell-O as the water.  My oldest, whose birthday is in December, always requests strawberry almond shortbread cake.  It’s not always easy to find great berries in the winter.

Yesterday was my birthday and I began the day by baking my own cake.  Now don’t go feeling sorry for me.  I have been baking my own cake for many years now.  When I was younger, my sister had a friend who worked at a bakery.  Every year she would bake and decorate her own birthday cake.  We always thought it was the saddest thing.  However, now that I’m grown up, I think that baking your own birthday cake is a joyous thing to do.  Think about it.  No having to be gracious and pretending to be thrilled when someone brings you a chocolate cake, when what you really wanted was carrot cake.  

Not that I would know anything about being gracious!  I am ashamed to admit that one year my good friend bought me an over the top artisan bakery creation for my birthday.  We were at my cottage for a girl’s weekend.  I told her, “Thanks, but I made my own cake for tonight.  We can serve yours tomorrow night.”  So, no I don’t get any points in the generosity of spirit category for that one, but I did get to eat my carrot cake on my birthday.

The carrot cake I’m takling about here is not your standard issue carrot cake.  I am talking about a dense, moist carrot cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese frosting, showered with toasted coconut.  The lemon curd filling keeps it from being too cloyingly sweet, something that too many carrot cakes are guilty of.  This cake was created by my friend Pam.  This is not one of those cakes that you mix up in one bowl and then bake.  Baking it requires you to dirty pretty much every bowl, measuring cup, spoon, spatula and whisk you own.  This cake is a labour of love.

While the cake is baking, you can prepare the lemon curd filling.  After whisking sugar, eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice in the mixer until light and fluffy, the mixer bowl is then placed over a pot of simmering water and you whisk until it has thickened.   The tricky part is not making lemon flavoured scrambled eggs.  You have to know just when to take it off.  After whisking for10 minutes it has thickened a little bit.  After 20 minutes it is perfect.

Time to assemble the cake.

Here’s a neat trick for getting the coconut onto the cake.

Pam’s Carrot Cake

 Carrot cake

 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups grated carrots

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter the inside of two 9-inch round cake pans.  Line bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. 

2    Sift together flour, powder, soda, cinnamon and salt.  In an electric mixer, cream together the oil and sugar for about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Mix in dry ingredients and carrots.  Do not over mix or cake will be heavy.  Pour batter into parchment lined pans.  Bake in oven for 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in the pan, set on a wire cooling rack.  Turn out and remove paper before filling with lemon cream.  Cake layers can be made a day ahead. Wrap well in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

 Lemon Cream

2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 small lemons)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

  1.  In an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until doubled in volume and very light in colour.  Mix in lemon zest and juice.

 2.  Transfer mixture to the top of a double boiler and cook over high heat until very thick, about 20 minutes.  Once the mixture has begun to thicken, stir occasionally with a wire whisk to help the eggs cook evenly.  Remove from heat.  Cut butter into small pieces and add to lemon mixture.  Stir until melted.  Set aside to cool.  Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

 Cream Cheese Frosting

 8 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
3-4 cups icing sugar

  1. In an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Mix in vanilla and salt.  Mix in icing sugar and cream until smooth.

 Coconut

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

  1. Place both types of coconut on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree F preheated oven for about 8 minutes until the edges are lightly golden brown.  Let cool.

 To assemble carrot cake

   1.  Set one layer on a serving platter and spread the lemon cream evenly over the cake.  Cut 4 small strips of waxed paper and slide them under each side of the cake to keep platter clean while icing.  

   2.  Cover the lemon cream with the second cake layer.  Ice the sides and then the top of the cake with the cream cheese icing.  Cover the sides of the cake with the toasted coconut; pressing gently to make sure it adheres well.  Refrigerate until serving time.

Giant Fleur de Sel Chocolate Chunk Cookies

 

Ever since I watched Emma Feigenbaum make Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies on  the “Best Burgers” episode of Everyday Food, I have been unable to think of anything else.  I know that lots of people bash Martha Stewart, but I happen to love this show.  There are no bells and whistles, no audiences applauding when the host mentions cheese, garlic or wine. (Sorry, Rachael Ray, I love you, but I just can’t stand that phony applause)  There are no “fake friends” coming around for dinner parties (Ina and Giada).  It’s just a simply produced show with a gorgeous set and appealing recipes that make you want to cook.  I find all the cast members credible and really enjoy Emma, the newest cast member.  She has the sweetest smile. I think we could be friends.

I managed to resist baking them for about a week, but then suddenly, all 3 of my children were under my roof for an entire 48 hours.  I had to bake!  As I was taking the butter out of the fridge to soften, my stack of Lindt fleur de sel chocolate bars caught my eye.  I always have at least 8 bars on hand in the fridge.  You never know when the craving will hit.  I decided to chop them up and use them in the cookies instead of regular chocolate chips.

Over the years I have had favourite chocolate chip cookie recipes.  We were hooked on Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookies for a while, but they were just too much trouble.  Apparently what makes them so special is the Valrhona feves (giant oval shaped chocolate discs), but seriously, I live in Ottawa, and sourcing them was a pain!  They also required 24-72 hours of chilling time for the dough before baking.  When you have a craving for chocolate chip cookies you don’t want to wait 3 days!

Before Jacques Torres’, we were into Marcy Goldman’s Better Baking.com Chocolate Chip Cookies (she nicknamed them “Big League” Chocolate Chip Cookies). But they required you to melt half the butter and then cool it and she also recommended chilling the dough for 24 hours.  Problem was, everyone ended up sneaking little bits of cookie dough from the fridge and by the time we got around to baking them, there was hardly any dough left.  Also, for some reason, I always got inconsistent results with this recipe.

Lately we have been  worshipping at the alter of Michael Smith’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.  But I just could not stop thinking of these Giant Cookies Emma made.  I was not disappointed.  They were crisp around the edges and chewy in the center.  The addition of the fleur de sel chocolate chunks took these cookies to a whole new level.

When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, people are in one of 3 camps.  There are those who love them all warm and gooey from the oven. Then there are those who prefer them once they have totally cooled, and the chocolate has a snap when you bite into them.  Finally, there are those who love them best straight from the freezer once they have cured for a few days.  Granted, that camp is quite small (BTW, I am firmly in this camp) but they have their followers.

Chop the chocolate, cream butter and both sugars together, add the vanilla and egg.

Using the mixer is ok for incorporating dry ingredients, but mix in chocolate chunks gently with a spatula.

Form cookies using a 1/4 cup measuring cup.  Don’t overcrowd. 4-5 cookies per sheet is the maximum.  Bake for 14-15 minutes.

Giant Fleur de Sel Chocolate Chunk Cookies

To print recipe, click here.

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 100 gram bars of Lindt Fleur de Sel Chocolate. coarsely chopped
Fleur de Sel for sprinkling (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until combined; mix in vanilla.
  3. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just incorporated. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chunks.
  4. Drop 1/4-cup mounds of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, at least 4 inches apart and away from edges of pan. (You will fit about 4 cookies to a sheet; bake in two batches, using two baking sheets per batch.) Bake until golden, 14-15 minutes, rotating sheets front to back and from top to bottom of oven halfway through.
  5. As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of fleur de sel. Cool 1 to 2 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.