In the current issue of Cook's Country magazine, they published the results of a chicken soup contest. Since it appeared in the mail while I was away in Mexico, I was feeling comparatively cold when I read it. Plus I got a new enameled cast-iron dutch oven that I wanted to put through its paces. So I went to the store and obtained the ingredients necessary to make three of the soups they featured. All of the recipes take less than an hour to make, and all use store-bought chicken broth and boneless - skinless chicken breasts. Heresy, yes, but I don't currently have any made from scratch chicken stock, so these were a good way to get some warming goodness into the roommates and myself. So, over the past 6 days, I made three chicken soups.
First up, New Orleans Chicken and Sausage Soup. It's a pretty basic soup based on onions, garlic, red bell pepper, chicken, smoked sausage, and rice. For the smoked sausage, I would have preferred andouille, but I was shopping at the local produce store, where they have all kinds of smoked polish sausages, but no andouille. So I used kielbasa. The soup was quick and easy to make, involving a very quick blonde roux for thickening. One of my roommates compared it to gumbo, which I can accept, but it didn't have the complex and deep flavors I associate with good gumbo. Probably because of the quick cooked roux, canned chicken broth, and lack of real andouille. No one complained, though. For a hearty soup in less than an hour, it was pretty good.
Next up was Thai chicken soup. Bring chicken broth to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Throw in 6 smashed cloves of garlic, 6 big chunks of ginger (also smashed), the zest of one lime, 5 jalepenos, and 2 chicken breasts. Simmer until the chicken is done, pull out the chicken and set it aside. Fish out all of the aromatics, toss them out. Put in some thin rice noodles, let them simmer until they are soft. Stir in some basil and some cilantro, the juice of half a lime, 5 sliced scallions, and cut up the cooked chicken and throw that in. Then serve it. This was probably my favorite soup of the three. Least amount of prep work, big flavor reward. Lots of leftovers, too.
Those two soups made dinner for 3 nights in a row for me, and some roommates ate it for breakfast and lunch at work, as well. So I took a break for a few days. Last night, I made the last one, which was actually the winner of their contest: Chicken and Corn Chowder with Sweet Potatoes. It's exactly what it sounds like. Make a basic chicken soup that includes chunks of sweet potato. Stir in milk and corn muffin mix. Let it simmer to thicken. Stir in frozen corn and a little bit of cheese. Simmer until the corn isn't frozen anymore. This was my least favorite of the three. It wasn't bad, but I don't really care for sweet potatoes, although I am trying to like them more. Between that and the corn muffin mix and the corn, it was a little too sweet for me. But it was a pretty successful and inexpensive set of meals, and if the roommates will eat the rest of the chowder, we will have eaten a lot of decent meals at home without much effort.