A month ago, Alanna at A Veggie Venture announced a great event. She decided to make February the month of Soup, Glorious Soup! I thought it was a great idea and made a mental note to cook up a recipe for this event. But one thing led to another, and I dilly dallied and spent far too much time pondering soup recipes. Finally, I looked at the calendar and saw that February is almost over!
The weather here has been cold, wet, and windy and I wanted a hearty, filling soup. A nice chowder seemed perfect for the job, and I imagined something thick and creamy-- a potato-cheese or corn chowder. Then I remembered a recipe in Jasper White's cookbook, 50 Chowders for a Pheasant and Cabbage Chowder. It reminded me of a soup my mom made when I was a kid, full of cabbage, caraway seeds, and thyme. She used beef rather than pheasant, and it was called Hunter's Soup, as I recall. Remembering how good the caraway seeds and cabbage were in the rich broth of my mom's soup, I decided to give Jasper's recipe a try, but I substituted chicken thighs for the pheasant. And I wound up with a delicious soup that was perfect for this dreary, wet weather. It's humble looking, but wonderfully rich and satisfying. If you eat it, you will gain strength to shovel snow from your driveway or sandbag your house from flood waters. Or...vacuum the house.
Chicken And Cabbage Chowder
(Jasper White, 50 Chowders)
3 pound chicken thighs
About 4 quarts water
4 sprigs of thyme
2 large onions, 1 unpeeled and coarsely chopped and the other peeled and
chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
2 carrots (about 3 ounces each, use additional carrots if yours are small). 1 coarsely chopped and the other peeled and sliced into 1/3 inch thick rounds. (Split the thick end pieces in half and cut into half moons.)
1 large stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 dried bay leaves
1 heaping teaspoon black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
4 ounces bacon, chopped into 3/4 inch slices
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, roughly chopped
1 pound yukon gold potatoes, peeled, halved and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
About 8 ounces of savoy or regular cabbage (about 1/2 of a small head of cabbage), cut into 3/4 inch pieces
Garnish of chopped Italian parsley
1. Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with the water. Bring to a boil and skim any foam floating on top. Set heat for a slow simmer.
2. Remove the leaves from 3 of the sprigs of thyme (should be about a teaspoon), set aside. Add the thyme sprigs and the 4th sprig to the broth, along with the bay leaves, cloves, coarsely chopped onion and carrot, celery, garlic clove, and peppercorns. Cover partially and simmer slowly for about 45 minutes or until the the chicken thighs are cooked and the meat comes from the bone easily.
3. Remove broth from heat and pull the thighs out of the broth and set them aside to cool enough to handle, then pull the meat from the bones, and tear it into bite sized pieces or cut into strips. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. You should have about 8 cups. If you don't have enough, add some stock. You can do the broth in advance and store it in the fridge.
4. Heat a 4-6 quart heavy pot over low heat and add the bacon. Once it has rendered it's fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until it's crispy. Pour off all the fat except about 1 Tablespoon, leaving the bacon in the pan.
5. Add the butter and melt it and add the onions, carrots, thyme leaves, and caraway seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions have wilted.
6. Add the potatoes and the reserved broth, then simmer for 8 minutes. Add the cabbages and cook for an additional 5 minutes more. The cabbage will begin to soften, and will continue to cook even after the heat has been turned off.
7. Remove the soup from the heat and add the chicken meat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Th soup will taste better if you let it set at room temperature for about an hour, to meld the flavors. Or you can refrigerate it until you're ready to serve it.
8, When ready to serve, reheat over low heat--do not boil. Serve garnished with the parsley.