Sunday, October 25, 2009

Simple Chicken Vegetable Soup with Beans

Sundays are often dedicated to figuring out my workday lunches and soup is my all time favorite portable, reheatable meal (carried in my beloved Glasslock dishes that fit perfectly into my old work-swag insulated lunchbox, but I'll spare readers the infomercial).

Today, instead of using a recipe, I decided just to throw some things together based on what we had in the house. I had made a big batch of chicken stock yesterday, so knew I could use that in my soup to add flavor. (I roasted the bones for the stock this time and was pleased at the depth it added to my very basic stock).

I had thought about adding some herbs or spices but couldn't decide which direction to go, so I cooked up the soup and decided to wait until later to spice it. Turns out, it was quite satisfying as it was.

I like to roast the chicken I'm going to use in my soup. Of course, in some ways it would be easier just to cook the raw chicken in the soup, but I like the guilty pleasure of eating the crispy skin and I like the flavor of roasted chicken better than poached.

We had some fresh cannellini beans from our CSA, so they didn't require any pre-soaking and cooked in about the same amount of time as the potatoes. If you don't have fresh shelling beans, I would recommend either using canned beans or using pre-cooked beans, as the soup itself doesn't need a long cooking time.

I like the body that pureeing soup brings, but I also wanted to enjoy the silky texture of the fresh beans, so I compromised. I removed about half of the vegetable and beans and pureed the remaining. Only then did I add the chicken pieces and the spinach.

INGREDIENTS
1 TBSP olive or vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, put through a press or minced
2 normal or 3 very small ribs celery, diced
2 normal or 4-5 very small carrots, diced
4 small to medium-sized red potatoes, diced
2 c. fresh cannellini beans, shelled and rinsed OR 1 can cooked cannellini or other white beans OR 2 c. pre-cooked white beans
6-8 c. chicken stock or water (or a combination--I used about 5 cups stock and 1-2 cups water)
1 TBSP salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium chicken breast, roasted and cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 leaves spinach, washed and finely chopped
More salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat the oil in a 4 or 5 quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until it starts to soften
  2. Add the garlic and continue cooking a few more minutes
  3. Add the celery and carrots and cook another minute or two
  4. Stir in the potatoes and the beans (if using fresh--wait until later if using canned or pre-cooked)
  5. Add the chicken stock/water and the salt and pepper
  6. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer
  7. Cook the soup until the beans and potatoes are tender. If using canned or pre-cooked beans, add them now
  8. Remove half of the vegetables/beans from the pot and puree the rest of the soup (ideally with an immersion blender)
  9. Put the vegetables and beans back into the pot and add the chicken and spinach
  10. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. The soup as I made it is very gentle and comforting, but it could easily be made more assertive with red pepper flakes, thyme, coriander, smoked paprika or wherever your imagination takes you

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