When the BC emergency system sent out the “school is closed” text last night, I could only dream of one thing: soup. I absolutely sprinted to my car to make it to Wegmans before they closed. I needed to stock up (no pun intended) on soup ingredients! I arrived with time to spare and got what I could from the picked over produce and last few gallons of milk. I could smell the storm coming.
This morning I woke up, ready to prep and cook and get my apartment smelling like my parents’ house. My mom makes this soup when it’s hot, when it’s cold and everywhere in between. It tastes like sick mornings at home watching “The Price is Right” and Sunday nights during NFL season. The best part? It’s really fun to make. Check it out:
First, you’ll have to prep the mirepoix. For all of you wondering what that is- it’s the prettiest thing in the world. You’ll get to practice your knife skills and see and smell the base for all great dishes. It should look like an Irish flag.
Ain’t she a beaut? Put them in a big pot with some olive oil and let them cook down. Don’t be hasty- give them a good twenty or so minutes to get tender and fill your kitchen with, for lack of a better phrase, the best smell ever. In the meantime, prep the rest of the veggies. You can really use anything you like, but I like broccoli, zucchini and spinach. Sometimes my mom uses broccoli rabe or sweet peppers. Sometimes she throws in cece beans (Italian-American for chick peas) and leaves out the zucchini and broccoli. Whatever you like is what’s going to be good. I like to prep everything into cute little bowls.
It makes me feel clean and official, like I’m a cookbook author or something. Even in my slimy kitchen in Vouté, I can be clean with clear prep bowls. Extra dishes are worth the feeling, trust me. My mom’s secret in her soup is adding some canned tomato sauce. It makes it smoother and sweeter and just the right amount of Italian. I like to add a very small can of sauce and a big can of whole tomatoes. During the prep phase, I like to pour the tomatoes in a bowl and crush them myself. It feels like play-doh day in kindergarten. You get to get your hands dirty and make a little mess.
Once the mirepoix is soft and perfect, I add some garlic to it. You know that song “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard?” Well, the smell of the garlic in the mirepoix brings all the boys to Vouté. Seriously, it smells so good and my neighbors always run to the door as soon as it hits their room. Once the garlic gets cooking, I add in three bone-in chicken breasts.
After a few minutes of browning, I add in four containers of chicken stock. If I was home, I’d reach into the fridge for a perfectly packaged container of homemade stock, but at school I use store-bought. Not about to have a roommate use my homemade chicken stock- I don’t need that headache and neither do they. I throw in some herbs and a few parmesan rinds. Have you ever used parmesan rinds in a stock? You will now.
I let that come to a boil and simmer for about forty minutes. In the meantime, I read, make hot chocolate, watch a TV show- anything to really make it a snow day. Then I take out the chicken and add the rest of the vegetables and, yes the tomato sauce. I let that go for another half hour or so and let the chicken cool off. It took my chicken one episode of “Friends” to cool off enough to properly handle. I take off the skin and shred the chicken. It can be kind of gross to pull it off the bones and everything, but I really enjoy it. It’s like facing a small fear every time I make the soup. I can handle you Mr. Chicken!!
I throw the chicken back into the pot and let it all cook together for a little while. Then I make some ditalini pasta to put in. Once that’s done, it’s finally time. I got my mug out, put in some pasta, and poured over my hot and toasty soup. Note: A sprinking of parmesan cheese over soup never hurt anyone. After a little celebratory dance today, I picked out a movie and poured a glass of wine. My roommates and I decided on “The Wolf of Wall Street.” What says snow day better than a healthy dose of capitalism?