06 March 2011

Chicken-Mushroom Soup,
Part II

Mushrooms & onions for the freezer
After some consideration I decided definitely to split the original mushroom-onion concoction. I drained & conserved the liquid (about an hour in a colander in the fridge) then scooped out most of the onions and wood ear, trying to leave somewhat less than half of both and nearly all of the enoki in the portion for today's soup. I'll freeze the broth and excluded veggies for use in a future dish.

I bought another pound of white mushrooms, chopped them fine in a blender with water, and put the resulting slurry on the stove to cook with just a little salt.

One chicken's worth of meat
The chicken pot had to be reheated to deal with it. The fat had solidified around the chicken and on top of the broth in the fridge, and the broth itself had gelled (presumably due in part to the added fenugreek and mustard, and largely to the hydrolyzed collagen - a.k.a. gelatin - rendered from the bones and skin through boiling). After bringing to a boil and then allowing it to cool to where my fingers were safe, I separated the chicken meat and discarded the bones an skin. I chopped half of the big hunks across the muscle grain, and the other half along the grain.  Then I fished out the few remaining large pieces of chicken from the stock and ran the warm broth through the blender to smooth it out and help emulsify the fat.

While letting the new mushroom broth simmer (and man does it smell mushroomy!), I re-boiled the blendered chicken broth with a little salt and a large sprig of rosemary.  The smell of cold chicken made me decide to change course with the spicing - more a gut reaction than anything else.  Both broths simmered for about 60-90 minutes. (I didn't mean to let them go so long but got caught in conversation with a neighbor.... fortunately they were on very low heat, so they just concentrated and didn't burn!)

Everything in the pot, ready
for the final simmer.

Now comes time to combine ingredients.  I reconstituted the chicken-garlic-rosemary stock to about 2 quarts and brought it back to a boil.  Here I added a couple tablespoons of black pepper and about twice as much tumeric to brighten up the yellow color of the broth.  With a little less than a quart of concentrated mushroom broth, I mixed that in with the chicken stock a cup at a time till I got the desired flavor combo (actually ended up using all the mushroom).  Then all of the chicken meat, the half of the original mushroom-onion combo that didn't go into the freezer went into the pot first, the bok choi, potato, and carrots.  Lid the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, then go watch some TV.

I checked the flavor occasionally, which became much fuller after the veggies started to add sweetness and bitterness to the broth.  After an hour of simmering I felt like it could use diluting, so added about 3 more pints of water.

Finally, after a good long simmer it's ready to cool and store (fridge half, freezer half).  I was worried about their not being enough green in the soup so I got some chard while picking up extra mushrooms.  I'm glad I didn't feel compelled to use it, because I was a little worried over how its unique bitterness would play off the other flavors.  I'm familiar with using other greens in soups and stews, but chard is an unknown to me.  I'll have to use it soon tho, so perhaps chard in the next project!  I also got some pasta stars for starching up the soup in case it was too thin, but felt in the end that the long strands of enokitake and chicken meat (from the pieces I chopped along the grain) were plenty of texture.  The contrasting texture of the stars would have been overkill, and the extra starch might have been ruinous.

It is a perfectly tasty and serviceable soup for lunch leftovers over the next week or two.  A very nice flavor and texture palate dominated by chickeny goodness.  Unfortunately the mushroom broth didn't stand out as much as I'd hoped, and the rosemary doesn't seem to be making much of a palate appearance at all. I'm glad I didn't try to curry it up after all with coriander and chili.  I think if I'd skimmed some chicken fat before blendering the stock, or doubled up again the amount of mushroom stock, it would probably be more the balance flavor combo I was going for.  Live and learn.

The final product

Out of this project I learned (or was reminded of) a few things:
  • Be careful with starting in multiple pots -  it might have been a more successful flavor combination if I'd worked with the chicken and mushrooms as one broth, and I might not have been compelled to overuse the onions to bolster the mushroom stock in the first place
  • Pureed mushroom sounds like an excellent starting point for the next soup!
  • Keep it simple.  I got caught up in trying to fix a mistake and ended up buying ingredients I didn't need for the project at hand.  I'll make use of them, but I'm glad I exercised restraint in not adding the chard or pasta till I saw how the original plan (albeit with slightly different proportions than intended) turned out.
With the workweek nigh upon us I may post a quickie about one of my favorite low-effort bachelor chow meals.  I've gotten tired lately of the particular dish I'm thinking of, but in the interest of journalism I may have to give it a go.

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