My friends share many things.
Woodworking tools. Kayaks and fishing poles. Giant chili pots.
An electric knife sharpener.
A chipper-shredder that scares the daylights out of me whenever someone sticks a branch into it.
Currently, several friends are sharing a wicked head cold.
I'm making soup for everyone, starting with many quarts of chicken stock.
What's the difference between stock and broth?
Stock is made from bones (carcass, neck, wings), long-simmered to release the flavorful gelatin into the liquid. Broth is made from meat, which gives a less rich taste. You can bump up the flavor of store-bought broth by adding carrots, onions, leeks, celery, fennel, bay leaf or herbs (thyme, parsley, chives) from your garden. Add more than flavoring to the broth -- ingredients that don't get strained out or boiled down -- and you cross over into soup.
In our cooking, we're always looking for what's fresh, young, new. But in making stock, you want the opposite: an old hen will give the best flavor. You want to extract every bit of that flavor into the liquid, so start with cold water, which draws out the juices from the chicken.
Here's my favorite way to make chicken stock: Start with a roast chicken; you can use a rotisserie chicken from the market, or roast your own. Remove the breast and thigh meat, and reserve for sandwiches or salad. Place the remaining carcass in a stock pot, and add one medium onion (skin on, cut in half), 1 large stalk of celery (cut in half to fit in the pot), and a few peppercorns. Cover with water by a few inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 2 hours. Remove the chicken with a spider or slotted spoon, and raise heat to high. Boil the stock until it is reduced by half. Let the stock cool, and pour through a fine-mesh strainer into freezer-safe containers or ice cube trays. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Black bean and peach soup
I consider myself a better-than-average soup maker, so when I tell you that this soup ranks in the top two or three of all soups I've made, ever, it's because I want you to try this right away. I first made this for my friend Lucia, whose homemade peach salsa sent it right over the top, but Trader Joe's or Newman's Own or your own peach salsa will be perfect. *Note: if you use a tomato-based peach salsa, eliminate the plum tomato in this recipe. Serves 6.
2 tsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped*
1-1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb cooked dry black beans**, or 3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 qt chicken stock
2 Tbsp mild barbecue sauce, any type
8-16 oz peach salsa (to taste: I use 8 oz of Lucia's homemade, or 16 oz of Newman's Own Peach Salsa)
1 large ripe peach, peeled and chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
In a 6-quart stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and tomatoes, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add beans, chicken stock, barbecue sauce and salsa. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cook, partially covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the fresh peach, and cook for another 10 minutes. With a wooden spoon, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot; this will help thicken the soup, as will the pectin in the fruit. Cook for 10 more minutes, stirring now and then, until soup reaches desired thickness. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper.
** My new favorite way to prepare black beans is in the slow cooker. Pick out any stones and put 1 lb dry black beans into the cooker. Cover with water by 3 inches. Cook on low for 18 hours.
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