When the weather is chilly and the wind is howling, soup is always my first thought. Soothing, warm, and filling, chicken soup heals bodies and nurtures families. Making a huge pot of chicken stock is rarely convenient, especially if you have a small household. Canned soup is often high in sodium, and among other things, it is canned! Fresh is always better, so I developed a shortcut recipe for freshly made chicken soup that does not make gargantuan quantities and require loads of time.
Keep in mind, making chicken stock the classic way by boiling chicken bones and vegetable pieces for 4 to 6 hours still renders the best quality chicken stock. But if you are like me, you are busy and looking for shortcuts. A few hours of simmering will give you a good stock along with the ability to control the sodium in your soup.
In this recipe, you will notice that I leave the onion whole while simmering. Again, when I am dashing around the house with chores or writing projects, it is nice to take the shortcut of not chopping the onion. The flavor of the broth is the same, and my hands do not take on any pungent aroma.
If you are unfamiliar with fideo, it is a thin vermicelli-type pasta that is used throughout Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. The traditional technique for preparing fideo is to pan toast it before adding it to any dish. The toasted wheat flavor is unexpectedly delicious. Substitute thin pasta such as spaghetti or linguini if you cannot find fideo.
Another tip that I recently discovered is using kitchen snips for the cilantro garnish. Mincing cilantro with a knife always seems to mash the delicate leaves too much. Also, damp herbs can stick to every surface, reducing the amount that actually makes it into a serving bowl. Snipping the washed and dried cilantro sprigs over the warm bowls of soup right before serving is so much easier than chopping. More shortcuts!
Soup is definitely a slow-cooking food, but using these tips, you can make a fresh batch in far less time. Enjoy!
CALDO DE POLLO CON FIDEO (Chicken Soup with Fideo) | Yields 4 to 6 servings
• 1 pound chicken breast with bones
• 2 quarts water
• 1 whole onion, peeled (chopping optional)
• 1 rib celery with leaves, chopped
• 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• 2 teaspoons salt or to taste (optional)
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 ounces dried fideo or thin pasta
• 1 tomato, seeded, peeled, and diced
• 1 avocado, peeled and diced
• 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1. Place the chicken breasts in a 3-quart stockpot, and fill with water. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt, and pepper, and cover.
2. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer for at least one hour. For better flavor, simmer for 2 full hours. Add 1 to 2 more cups of water if you feel the stock has reduced too much.
3. Remove the chicken from the pot, reserving the broth.
4. Allow the chicken breasts to cool, and then remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and return the chicken meat to the pot. Remove and discard the whole onion if desired.
5. In a separate 9-inch skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the uncooked fideo or pasta, and lightly toast the pasta until it is golden brown, about 3 minutes.
6. Toss and stir the pasta so it does not scorch.
7. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly.
8. Carefully pour the entire skillet of toasted pasta into the broth and return the broth to the heat.
9. Add the diced tomato. Simmer until the pasta is cooked, about 7 minutes.
10. Serve the soup garnished with diced avocado and chopped cilantro.