Happy chickens make happy soup. And yesterday, as the snow fell all day, slowly reducing the world to a quiet white wonderland, I definitely needed to fill my home with a dose of happy. News about my dad’s condition kept trickling in, text after text, getting more and more dire. With everything so quiet and so white, sadness washed over me. It was time for some poultry therapy.
When I’m sad, I run, hard, pounding the pavement to sweat through the pain. Then I cook up a storm. But with yesterday’s snow, there was no running, no filling my lungs with big gulps of cleansing fresh air, so I filled them with the smell of bubbling, golden chicken broth. Equally therapeutic in a completely different way.
I roast a couple of chickens every week and make broth from the leftover bones, but for great chicken soup, I use the raw backs of chickens that have lived happy lives. Full of flavor and the right amount of fat, they brown up in the pan beautifully, giving the soup an unbelievable flavor. The trick is to brown the chicken backs, right up until the point where they’re nice and caramel colored all over. Then you add the onions and saute them until they’re really soft, glistening, and gorgeous. Then you can add your seasonings, carrots and celery, and water and set your broth to bubble on the stove for an hour or two. You’re golden at that point. Your soup will be unforgettable, regardless of how you choose to transform it.
We often have plain chicken noodle soup, but this week called for something a little different. I added some tomato powder (amazing stuff from the spice house, each pinch is like summer), some cooked tortellini, and a generous sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Juju had two full bowls and declared it the greatest soup ever made. That was pretty good therapy for a sad mom.
- 4 chicken backs
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 celery rib, diced
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 10 cups of water
- 2 cups of cheese tortellini, already cooked
- 2 teaspoons of tomato powder
- ¼ cups of parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on medium high heat.
- Add the chicken backs and saute until nice and brown all over, a good 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the onions and saute for another 5-7 minutes, until glistening and translucent.
- Now add the carrots, celery and spices. Saute for another 1-2 minutes.
- Pour in the water, as much as the pot will hold, and bring to a low boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook for an hour or two until golden and beautiful.
- I don't skim the fat off of this soup. It's delicious and adds the flavor.
- Add the tomato powder and stir until blended. Feel free to add more if you want a stronger tomato flavor. This quantity will be just a hint.
- Add in the tortellini and sprinkle the parmesan on top. Serve hot or reheat the next few days to serve.