October 30, 2013

The Maine Ingredient: Chicken soup for the sugar high

Make a hearty chicken soup to eat before your Halloween adventure.

By Anne Mahle

It’s inevitable. The sugar high that comes from Halloween candy will come like a freight train into a well-tended station and leave just as regularly. Unavoidable. And really, should it be avoided? Once a year, to eat candy with total abandon? What child, or adult for that matter, doesn’t love that?

However, just to mitigate the inevitable consequences of blood rushing to our extremities as the sugar coarses through our veins, perhaps a chicken soup before the gluttony begins is just the thing.

It’s never been clear to me when the best time to shoehorn dinner time into the festivities truly is. Clearly before rather than after sugar collection and bingeing, but that means some planning is involved on my part if we are to eat beforehand. The costumes, the hair, the makeup, the preparation for our house, the … well you know, you’ve done it too.

So, this year, my plan is to make a chicken soup ahead of time (meaning the day before) and have it on the stove top on low for everyone to grab a bowl after dressing and before final makeup. Bibs are required if there’s a messy eater in the house so as not to soil the masterpieces already donned. I need to remember to eat as well once all the last-minute costume preparations are complete. A salad, bread and some carrot sticks, and we’ll at least have fuel to carry us into the darkness and on to sugar mania.

I’ve given two chicken soup recipes and two different ways to incorporate the chicken (with bones and without) into a soup. One soup, chicken and asparagus stellini soup, is super kid-friendly, and the other just a bit more for the adults or the more adventuresome child.

CHICKEN AND ASPARAGUS STELLINI SOUP

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup diced celery, about 2 stalks

2 cups peeled and diced carrots, about 2 carrots

2 cups diced onion, about 1 large onion

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 chicken thighs, bone and skin on

3 chicken legs, bone and skin on

1/2 cup white wine

6 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup uncooked stellini (little star pasta)

1 bunch asparagus, about 10 large stalks

Several grinds of black pepper

2 ounces shaved Parmesan

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots, onions and salt and saute until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken and begin to saute. When the pan begins to sizzle, add the white wine and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cover for 30 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is falling off the bone.

Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs and set aside to cool slightly. Add the pasta and stir well. It has a tendency to sink to the bottom and stick there, so stir frequently until it’s absorbed some water and will float.

Snap the ends off the asparagus and cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces. When the chicken is cool enough to handle using your fingers or tongs, remove the skin and bones to discard and reserve the meat. When the pasta is done, add both the chicken and asparagus to the pot and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately with Parmesan as a garnish.

Serves four to six.

CHICKEN AND LENTIL SOUP WITH CILANTRO AND FETA

This is a perfect soup to make with homemade chicken stock and/or leftover chicken. If either isn’t readily available, add 11/2 pounds of diced raw chicken to the pot after sauteing the vegetables.

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