The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: Chicken Soup a la Smiter
Here’s a recipe I’m actually currently making — the house smells divine, if I do say so myself. It is one of my favourites, as it hits several sweet spots: it’s cheap, it’s delicious (again, if I do say so myself), and it’s extremely economical because you use up all the end bits of a roast chicken. And I do mean all.
Me, I buy those supermarket/deli roast chickens and use those. I get at least two or three hot chicken meals from one (chicken leg, mixed veg, green salad, white wine… oh, be still my heart) followed by a couple of days of chicken sandwiches.
After that comes the soup, which lasts for a couple of days after which leftovers can be frozen in batches. I can’t think of much else that gives such good value for money.
Since time is of the essence here (I’m hungry, and that soup smells really good) I will skip straight to the point.
Count on about 2 hours of prep, total.
- The bones/carcass of a roast chicken (I keep a Tupperware in the fridge to save the bones from the meals as I go)
- 8 cups of cold water
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 or 4 dried hot peppers (if you want your soup to have a bit of a nip to it)
- salt and pepper to taste
Put all these bits in a big pot and bring it to a boil. Once it’s got a good rolling boil going, turn heat to medium, loosen the lid a bit, and leave it for about an hour to cook all the goodness out of the bones.
This next bit is tricky-ish. Get a VERY big bowl (or another big pot) and set it in the sink. (An empty sink, obviously.) Fit a colander over that.
Take the pot of bones & water etc. off the stove and slowly, carefully pour it through the colander into the second pot/bowl. Once, and only once, I poured the whole thing through a colander — and straight down the drain. My therapist says I will eventually stop having nightmares about this.
Pick up the colander and set it over a second bowl, and put it aside for now. Pour the strained (boneless) broth back into the original pot or leave it in the second pot into which you poured it, and put it back on the stove to stay hot. Do all of this carefully. This stuff is VERY hot and splashy. You do not want to have to explain chicken soup burns to the paramedics. They will point & laugh — and then eat all your soup.
Now, you will need any or all of the following:
- any vegetables you want in your soup (I actually favour those nice frozen mixed veggies: easy and cheap)
- one onion, chopped
- two nice fat cloves of garlic, chopped or smashed
- 1 cup of rice (I like whole-grain rice but use what you like)
- chopped potato
- 1 cup orzo or other tiny pasta
- any leftover chunks of chicken meat that you didn’t have as dinners or put into delicious sangwiches
Bung those into your pot of stock. If you’re using rice, potatoes, or pasta, you’ll need to bring the stock back to a boil and then turn it down again to cook them properly.
Now, turn your attention back to that colander of cooked bones. Carefully (those suckers are still hot) mine through them for any extra bits of chicken that have cooked off the bones. Don’t be too ridiculously thorough about it, but there will be goodies in there. Bung your treasures into the pot.
Empty the bowl underneath the colander into the pot of stock on the stove — there will have been a bit more liquid draining out.
Give the bones etc. one last squish to get all the juices out, add that to the pot (the liquid, NOT the bones) and then dispose of the bones in a plastic bag & into your garbage or compost.
Note: Pet owners, be careful here: chicken bones can choke a dog and cats will drag bones all over creation (and ultimately into your bed) so dispose of them carefully.
Wait another half hour (slightly more if you’ve used brown rice) for the soup to cook, taste and adjust your seasonings, and fend off any neighbours drooling at your door (or invite them in if you’re feeling magnanimous).
Serve with buns or bread, maybe a bit of cheese, and a nice white wine if you’re so inclined.
- $8.99 or so for the roast chicken
- maybe a buck, maximum, for the veggies
- 50 cents or so for your rice or pasta
- And as always, if you’re counting up the pennies for water or spices, have a glass of wine & fergeddabout it.
So, a whopping $10.50 for 3 chicken dinners, 2 or 3 juicy sangwiches, and at least 6 servings of chicken soup — or less than $1.00 per serving.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
And now, if you will excuse me, I hear a bowl of soup and a nice Pinot Grigio calling my name.
— Smiter out