Monday, April 13, 2009

Whole Chicken...Part 1

Tummy ache doesn't even begin to describe my angst after last night's dinner. So miserable was I, that I crawled under the covers immediately upon returning home, which wasn't much after seven. There I spent a fitful night, tossing and turning, and moaning and groaning. It wasn't the quality of the food in question (luscious roast lamb with spring vegetable melange), or the quality of the wine (Dom champagne, two white burgundies, Arrowood Voignier, and Chateau Petrus 1986). No, it would be fair to say that the quantity consumed was the cause of all my suffering. And I didn't even get to nibble on my kids' Easter basket goodies.

Even now, just re-reading what I have written causes me distress. I think I am in need of a spa week with ultra-healthy and light meals to get me back on track, beginning with the classic cure-all, chicken soup. But since soup is often considered to be a fall or winter meal, I'm going to keep it fresh and bright with ginger, mint and lemongrass. The whole chicken, which I will poach to make the broth, will be used in the soup and then in at least one other meal this week-thus proving that tasty and organic, and thriftiness, are not mutually exclusive qualities (and that a little bit goes a long way).

In the mean time, I'm going to (gently) fill my belly with some steamed rice and seaweed salad-hopefully it will accept the meager offering-and head down to Bristol Farms to pick out our chicken...

The resulting soup was everything I could have hoped for-nourishing but not heavy, fragrant and fresh. Topped with freshly sliced serrano peppers (for the grownups), it helped to generate healing warmth, I'm quite sure. My kids gulped it down and asked for more. So did my husband. I think this is a repeat.

Lemongrass Chicken Soup
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 whole organic chicken, gizzards removed if any
enough water to cover
2 stalks of lemongrass (white an light yellow parts only), smashed and chopped
4 scallions cut into 1 inch pieces
1, 1 inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 fresh chile, seeded and sliced in half
1 t black peppercorns
1/4 C soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
5 stems of cilantro, plus 1/3 C chopped leaves
3 stems mint, plus 1/4 C thinly slivered leaves
2 large carrots, julienned
handful of snap peas, julienned
2 scallions, julienned
thin rice noodles (or angel hair pasta), prepared according to package directions

Place chicken , lemongrass, scallions, sliced ginger, half of the chile, peppercorns and soy sauce in a large pot. Add enough water to cover chicken. Cover with lid and bring to a simmer. Uncover partially, and gently simmer for 1 hour. Remove chicken and set aside to cool a bit. Into the pot add cilantro and mint stems. Simmer for 15 minutes more. Add 1 T fish sauce and strain broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Reserve broth and discard solids. Shred meat from the chicken, dividing it equally between two containters. Refrigerate broth and chicken separately for at least 4 hours.

Skim fat from top of broth and reheat along with 1 container of chicken in a large saucepan over medium heat. Place a small handful of cooked rice noodles in each bowl and top with a ladle full of chicken and broth. Top with julienned carrots, scallions and peas and more fresh cilantro and mint. Add chopped chile if desired.

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