Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chicken Soup with Rice

I grew up in a home where dinner generally came:

-Frozen, but microwaved in minutes;
-From a drive thru window;
-From a box;
-From Bob’s Big Boy or other similar establishment.

To be fair, my parents divorced when I was six, and neither of them coped well when it came to nourishing the kiddos.  My Mom worked all day and came home understandably too tired to cook.  Not that weekends or summers (she was a teacher) were any different.  Cooking just really wasn’t her thing.  It was the 70s, she was bringing home the bacon, but had pretty much no interest in “frying it up in the pan.”  To this day, she considers “heat and serve” bacon a gift from the gods.  My Dad’s cooking skills (pre-stepmom) were pretty much in the hamburger helper range (though he quickly trained my sister and me in the basic preparation skills required for that – I was a whiz at making his instant coffee too).   Frankly, I remember a LOT of McDonalds and Taco Bell and could wax nostalgic about waiting in drive-thru lines and gobbling French fries on the way home in the car, too tempted by smells I now know were chemically manufactured, to wait for more formal dining arrangements.  What I don’t remember are sit down style meals where basic standard classics like chicken soup were featured.

Of course this situation wasn’t without its perks – I never had to set the table, clear it or do the dishes.  I did, though, grow up with the impression that cooking was difficult and mysterious.  Imagine my astonishment the first time I made chicken soup with rice.  I was determined to make it from scratch and figured it would be an all-afternoon ordeal of preparation.  I remember that day in the kitchen, ingredients in hand, recipe book at the ready, hours in front of me.  Turns out though, the whole shebang is nothing more than filling a pot with water, tossing in chopped onion, celery, carrots and a cut up chicken.  And heck, the butcher even cuts up the chicken for you.  Truth be told, effort-wise, it takes a great deal less energy than driving through, well, anywhere.  I dare you to spend more than 5-10 minutes on prep even if you’re the slowest chopper on the planet.  It’s mega-cheap too, since the market regularly has chicken on sale.  

Since this is what I made last night (it perfectly fit the ambience of the thunderstorm raging outside), I’m going to include my recipe here.  Just in case any of you grew up in similarly “home cooking deprived” households.

Chicken Soup with Rice
Salt/Pepper/Thyme/Sage (whatever you like)
(note: I put no amounts because frankly, whatever you have will work… it’s a very forgiving recipe)

Fill a huge pot with water, throw in chopped onion (I generally use 1 or 2), carrots (4-6), celery (a head) and the chicken.  At this point I put in a Tbsp or so of salt, but add more later to taste.   Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for about an hour.  Take out the chicken and let it cool (or use rubber gloves) and peel the meat off the bones to throw back in the pot.  Add the rice, let it cook about 15 minutes more, season to taste and voila: a huge pot of deliciousness (undreamed of in my youth)

That’s it.  Make a huge amount, because it’s even better the next day.  Optional:  Sing Carole King’s rockin’ version of Maurice Sendak’s classic poem “Chicken Soup with Rice” and consider yourself tres domestic J