Friday, September 22, 2006

a day at the spa for mr. chicken

[otherwise known as my soup pot!]

today was chicken soup, *kugel & challah making day. what would the holidays be without these things?
[*kugel = a type of baked vegetable or noodle dish/casserole]

there are a million and half, and indeed many more, recipes for chicken soup. each family has its own way. here is my basic version. uncomplicated and never-fail, it is a staple — holidays, the sabbath or just any day.

as most jewish cooks know, the best chicken soup always starts with a kosher chicken. seek one out, if you can. they really do taste different.

my chicken soup
1 whole [kosher] chicken, with the skin on
2 medium onions, peeled
3 stalks celery
3 carrots
2 parsley roots [optional but makes a difference]
2 bay laurel leaves
several black peppercorns

first the chicken needs to keep its skin on. removing it detracts from the final flavour of the broth. don't worry about "fat" content. you can always, and most probably will, remove most of — if not all — the fat in the end. this is simply done by refrigerating the stock and removing the solidified fat from the surface and discarding it.

wash the chicken well and let it drain, removing any leftover pin feathers [often found on the kosher chickens]. cut off any chunks of fat that are visible and either keep for another purpose or discard.

prepare the vegetables: peel carrots, parsley roots and onions & clean the celery. cut the celery and carrots into 2 1/2 to 3 inch pieces and leave the onions whole.

here are the ingredients all together —

once the chicken is prepared, put only the chicken into a large dutch oven and cover it with cold water only until it barely reaches the top of the chicken. i used a very large le creuset as the chicken was big.

let the chicken come to a boil on medium low heat. bringing it to a fast boil causes much more of the proteins to be released. cover the pot and check on it every once in a while. this is a slow process, not to be rushed. you may need to leave the cover slightly open if you have boil-overs.

after a while, you will start to see build-up on the surface. carefully skim this off and discard.

this is how it should look after you have done a good job ;-p

now is time to add the vegetables and your bay leaves and peppercorns. you may of course add whatever else you want. salt is not added now but that is up to you. i don't do it until much later. at this point, you may refresh with boiling water if too much has evaporated during the first stage [you shouldn't have to].

now cover the pot and let it simmer for 4 to 5, even 6, hours. keep it at just above minimum heat. check on it every once in a while.

here it is after several long hours:

one half hour before it is finished simmering, add salt to your liking and add a good bunch of fresh, vivid green dill or "kreep" as we call it in yiddish. taste and adjust accordingly.

the next step is to cool everything off and then remove the vegetables into one bowl. you may re-add these later or discard them or reserve for another use.

then very carefully remove the chicken [in pieces, if necessary] into another bowl. the chicken is shredded for adding back into the soup and for making kreplach [jewish ravioli] for the next holiday in one week from now, Yom Kippur.

place the stock in the fridge and let it sit overnight and gel. the next day you will have a layer of chicken fat which can easily be removed. skim it off in pieces and discard or use for cooking.

the stock is then reheated and very carefully strained to remove all impurities to leave you with a glimmering, golden rich chicken stock.

et voilà.

this stock can be used as soup or as a base for other preparations. freeze it in one or two cup measures to have on-hand when you need it. an essential kitchen stock item.

i decided to make a moroccan-style potato kugel this holiday. it is made with mashed potatoes rather than shredded, as in the typical ashkenazi preparation. here is what the finished dish looks like:

moroccan style potato kugel — batata bil firan

2 pounds peeled baking [russet] potatoes
4 teaspoons kosher salt [or 2 teaspoons table salt]
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 onions, diced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 large eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika [optional]
1/2 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 carrot, cooked until tender and diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro or fresh parsley

peel and quarter the potatoes and put in a large pot. add cold water to cover by 1 inch and 1 teaspoon of the table salt or 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt. add carrot cut into two pieces.

bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. carrot may be done before the potato. do not over cook. drain and put potatoes, while still warm, through a food mill or ricer — or you can return the peeled potatoes to the cooking pot and mash them. add the eggs, one by one mixing after each addition. cover this and proceed to cut the carrots and add them and the lemon juice to the potatoes also.

preheat the oven to 350°F.

in a large pan heat the oil over medium heat. add onions and sauté until lightly golden approximately 15 minutes, adding the garlic and sautéing near the end of the cooking time. add the onions, parsley and spices to the potatoes.

generously oil an 8-cup baking dish, such as 8-inch square. heat in the oven until hot, about 5 minutes.

carefully spoon the potato mixture into the baking dish and dust the top with paprika. bake until golden about 50 to 60 minutes.

serve warm or at room temperature. 6 to 8 servings.

best eaten the day it is made. do not freeze.

recipe based on gil marks'
challah is asleep in the fridge until tomorrow morning. see you later!


Ruth Daniels said...

This year, silly me, I chose not to make a potato kugel - and now I'm regretting it. This one is now bookmarked to try. I think it will be perfect for sukkot! We're going to my daughter's in Halifax and will be eating in her sukkah.

Thanks for sharing. BTW, I love you site and added you to my favorite links.

burekaboy — said...

often it's the same thing every year [can you hear tevyeh in the background screaming "TRADITION??]. tradition is often hard to break from and deviating from it makes us realize how much we miss it and why we do it.

this version was really good. as i suggest, eat it the day it's made. [we had it reheated by microwave the next day — not the best idea as it seemed a bit watery; i wonder how it would have fared reheated in the oven?] i would even think you could make it the day before, refrigerate it and cook it in the oven.

in any case, it really is worth trying. it was quickly consumed by everyone. don't skip the turmeric!

enjoy & thanx for including me in your favourite linx. i am happy you liked my site & appreciate the feedback.


Ruth Daniels said...

I finally made the kugel and it was great - everyone loved it. I brought the recipe to Halifax to make for a sukkah meal, but my daughter said she had tried it and it was boring.....I don't know what she's talking about - obviously a similar recipe without the turmeric and hot paprika.

This was definitely NOT boring. I mentioned your site in the post.

burekaboy — said...

hey ruth! welcome back. hope you had a fantastic holiday in halifax. i love being by the ocean.

i am glad you tried the kugel and everyone loved it. it went over really well at rosh hashanah when i made it. i guess the paprika and turmeric add a more exotic punch to "plain old" mashed potatoes. ;p

thanks for the feedback and mention in your post.

Beenzzz said...

I've never tried potato Kugel, but I do love Morroccan food. I'm very tempted to try this recipe! I have a tagine that I make Moroccan lemon chicken in. SO GOOD!

burekaboy — said...

hey beenzzz - hope you try it. i was very pleased with the results and it is very simple to prepare.

you should post your moroccan lemon chicken in your blog! with pictures, of course!! ;p

Shelliza said...

My husband makes a VERY similar chicken soup, but I like loads of Matzo balls. I make Kugel one year for a Passover dinner. Yum!