I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Too much soup

With the weather finally turning cold, I went to the grocery store Thursday night and bought all the ingredients for chicken soup, the main ingredient, of course, being a chicken. But, it takes a fair amount of water to cook a whole chicken. So, I wound up with with enough soup to feed a dozen people. This is a pretty common problem when you're single--ingredients usually come in family size.
I suppose I could invite friends over for a party or something, but chicken soup doesn't really seem like a party food. For that, I would go with chili. And. there's just something about certain cold evenings that demand chicken soup; nothing else is going to quite fit into that soup shaped hole in your brain to bring you warmth.
Still, I've been eating soup for three straight days now. When is summer getting here again?


Lisa Shearin said...

It's almost as difficult to cook for two people as it is for one. There's ALWAYS leftovers. ; ) I made a "vat" of spaghetti sauce this weekend. Derek & I have had spaghetti for three straight days. I froze the rest of it for meals when I'm too busy writing to cook (which nowadays is most of the time). Since you're on deadline, you could get a couple of freezer containers and freeze the rest of the soup (and chili).

James Maxey said...

It's true, this pot of soup would have defeated even two people. It's really more a family size affair.

I never freeze anything any more. I used to, but noticed that all that got me was a freezer full of stuff I was never going to touch again. Now I just skip the step of throwing it away frozen and unidentifiable when I eventually move by just tossing it once I'm done. At least it's biodegradable when it hits the landfill.

jwdonovan said...


Bitterwood may believe that "Life is more bearable when you live without hope," but life definitely lacks too much when you live without genuine food. Anyone who makes his own chicken soup gets it. Your objections can be addressed partly by modifying your recipes and partly by feeding your cooking habit.

There are always new ways to make a dish; I tend to rely on thoroughly tested ones like the recipe mentioned below (developed by "Cooks Illustrated" magazine/ America's Test Kitchen). You’ll reduce your timr-to-soup significantly.

Feed your cooking habit by approaching some recipes as yielding multiple products. Your chicken soup efforts can deliver great soup, extra poached chicken breast for a no-bake potpie or a more exotic dish like Cold Poached Chicken Breasts with Tuna Basil Sauce (www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/12548), and a concentrated chicken reduction. If your guests don't like tuna or anchovies, substitute roasted pepper strips or roasted garlic.

When your big pot of soup is finished, strain out one or more quarts of broth and reduce it to a quarter-volume or less (you'll know when the reduction looks syrupy, coats a spoon, and the bubbles get larger and gelatinous) You now have a golden, multi-use chicken glaze. Cool it overnight in an ice cube tray, and then freeze the cubes in a tight plastic bag. You can toss one into a skillet of stir-fried veggies for a huge (low fat, low salt) flavor boost, add one to some boiled rice for a great, fast side dish (season to taste), add one cube to a couple of cups of canned stock with a tablespoon of a roux for great chicken gravy.

One of my favorite fast meals is a ten-minute take on Chicken Marsala It starts with skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut across the grain into ¼ inch or less medallions. Saute them on medium high until lightly browned on each side (just two or three minutes total). Remove the medallions from the pan, deglaze the pan with an ounce or two of Sherry or Marsala wine, cook off the alcohol, add a cube or two of chicken reduction, season the pan sauce to taste, add the medallions back into the pan and simmer to warm them through, remove from heat and add two or three teaspoons of unsalted butter to the sauce.

You can use your cooking time to yield several great dishes, and a wide range of possibilities at the same time. Don't you wish writing could be like that?


John Donovan

Recipe reference follows:

Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup
The Problem: It's all too easy to make weak, characterless chicken soup from scratch. And, when making broth, it can be bothersome to strain out and throw away all that celery, carrot, and onion, only to turn around and chop more of the same for the soup. The problem, obviously, stems from the broth.

The Goal: A robust chicken soup that was easy to make and tasted so good that we'd long to be sick.

The Solution: Our winning recipe was based on one from Edna Lewis's In "Pursuit of Flavor" (Knopf, 1988). Rather than simmering chicken bones, aromatic vegetables, and herbs for hours, Lewis's recipe called for sautéing a chicken, hacked into small pieces, with an onion until the chicken lost its raw color. The pot was then covered and the chicken and onion cooked over low heat until they released their rich, flavorful juices, 15 to 20 minutes. Only at that point was water added, and the broth was simmered just 20 minutes longer. In the end, this broth was too strong. Rather than using the whole chicken for the broth, we removed the breast and reserved it for the final soup. The rest of the bird----the legs, back, wings, and giblets----are tossed into the stockpot. Like Lewis, we included onion in the broth but found that using celery and carrot neither added nor detracted from the final soup, so we left them out of the broth and later added them to make the soup. Cutting the chicken into small pieces is the most difficult part of making this soup. A meat cleaver, a heavy-duty chef's knife, or a pair of heavy-duty kitchen shears makes the task fairly simple.