Spicy chicken soup with kale
This weekend brought perfect fake spring weather. By that I mean that it felt exactly like those beautiful late March days I remember from growing up on the East Coast, when an almost-warm sun would pop open the violets and daffodils, a shot of color amid bare maples—the sign that the snow was almost surely gone for good. Out here in the Pacific Northwest, this kind of spring weather is only a brief respite from the otherwise dreary, damp and dark days that are sure to come from now until mid-July. We go outside because we must; you do not waste a dry day like this.
I got some yard work done on Saturday but the fake weather didn’t fool me enough to pull out the barbecue. By nightfall, temperatures were back down in the 40s and I was happy to have chicken stock simmering on the stove. My latest discovery in stock-making is that adding a halved lemon or two makes a world of difference. The tartness is not for everyone, but I love the extra dimension the shot of acidity brings to the broth. After all, a soup will only ever be as good as its broth. Start with a flavorless broth and you will have a boring soup.
The sun came back out Sunday morning, but I still knew better. We took the MAX downtown to do a little shopping in the late afternoon, and when the sun set, so did the chill in the air. The walk home was brisk. The rains haven’t returned yet, but spring is no longer in the air.
“Chicken soup tonight,” I told Martin.
Recipe: Spicy Chicken Soup with Kale
A family friend likes to say that making a soup is too much work for what you get. I completely disagree. As long as you make your stock in advance, the soup-making itself is easy, and it’s always the same, no matter the type of soup you’re making.
Saturday night, I roasted a butterflied chicken, so I reserved the giblets and the neck/backbone for the stock. And because the chicken recipe called for 3 tablespoons of lemon rind, I had a few extra lemons to throw in. I found a hunk of ginger hiding under my garlic, and figured, heck, why not? Tossed that in, too. I was also roasting a delicata squash, so I added the pulp and seeds, plus some garlic and small onions. Covered the goodies with water, added a bay leaf and a touch of salt, and let it simmer, and simmer some more, until I had nothing but flavor.
(Note: There are all sorts of rules and recipes people adhere to when making homemade stock. I think most of them are all old wives’ tales. Your stock will taste good if you’ve got bones, onions and vegetables. It doesn’t really matter what you put in there, in my opinion. It will still be better than store-bought stock.)
I would’ve added carrots and celery to this but we were flat out of both.
- 1 TBSP fat (I used bacon fat from breakfast, but butter or olive oil would be fine)
- One medium onion, chopped
- Two cloves garlic, minced
- 2 TBSP flour
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 3/4 cup rice
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more or less, to taste… I think I went for more)
- 1/2 bunch kale, chopped
- 2 cups leftover cooked chicken, cubed
- 1 TBSP chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the oil; add the onions. Cook until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (my new favorite thing to put in EVERYTHING) and cook another 3 minutes.
2. Stir in the flour until it binds completely with the onions, and then add the stock (which, preferably, is pre-heated).
3. Add the rice and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes or so, until the rice is cooked.
4. Add the kale and chicken, and when the chicken is heated and the kale is cooked (about 5 minutes), add the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
That’s it. The lemon-ginger-spice combo of broth worked very nicely, but your soup will be different, for sure. That is the beauty of chicken stock. It’s like a snowflake—never the same.