I had to make chicken soup the other night - more because I had to make it - than I had to eat it. I got a fermier chicken - which is a farm-raised chicken - as opposed to a factory-raised chicken. They're not necessarily free-range or organic but they're still damned tastier. There's always a little metal tag on a fermier chicken in France - stuck on the wing. And you can almost always find fermier chickens in any little local grocery store in Paris - you don't need to go to some specialty butcher. I got the chicken and some carrots, celery, and onion - for the standard mirepoix - which is just shorthand for a small dice of these aromatic veggies - and tomatoes. I also got a leek - I love leeks - and don't get why Americans don't eat them more - they're such a familiar flavour.
When I got back to my friend's place - where I'm staying temporarily - I discovered she did not have a big stockpot. I was stumped for a second. And then I decided to just part the chicken and make a small batch soup. I love that phrase - "small batch". I sharpened her paring knife and took off the legs, breasts, and oysters - those little nubs in the back - bagged them, then stuck them in her freezer for another time.
In her biggest pot - just a big saucepan really - I melted a little butter and started to lightly brown the carcass all around.
While that was going I peeled the carrots - I had to use my own peeler because hers was a little scary - and I just love my own peeler and use it any chance I get. It's the OXO peeler with the replaceable blades - and they are in fact frighteningly extra-sharp - just as advertised. Once the carrots were peeled I sliced them into bite-sized rounds - according to my size of bite. I set those aside since the carcass wasn't fully golden yet.
Then I prepped the celery. I took off the leaves and set those aside, cut off the root ends, and peeled the stalk - with my prized peeler again - and again the bite-sized pieces.
By that time the carcass - whole with wings still attached - was nice and golden so I took it out of the pot. I added a little more butter and then the carrots and started them to caramelise.
I cleaned off the celery leaves and set those aside for my makeshift bouquet garni - a little aromatic bundle usually made of green leek leaves, parsley stems, thyme, a bay leaf, and some peppercorns - but they didn't have any fresh herbs left at the store so I was just going to have to improvise.
I added the celery stalk pieces and a little more butter to the pot.
The onion I halved through the root, peeled off the papery skin, put the flat side down, halved parallel to the cutting board - almost to the root - sliced in half - still keeping the root intact - and then sliced across to make big cubes. I added that to the pot. And by that point the bottom of the pot had some browned patches - which is the good stuff! The onions released just enough moisture to easily scrape all that up and mix it around.
For the leek I peeled off the outermost layers and set aside the just the green part of those leaves for the makeshift bouquet garni. I sliced of the fuzzy root end and then starting from the bottom of the palest green - nearest the white - I sliced up lengthwise, turned it halfway, and made the same long crosswise cut. It was pretty clean - which actually disappoints me as I like washing out dirt and sand in leeks. I sliced across in big bite-sized pieces - and in went those to the pot.
With the tip of my knife I cored out just the green stem end of the tomatoes, halved, quartered the halves, then tossed those in.
I also added two garlic cloves - peeled, halved, and degermed - but not much of a germ which again was a little disappointing - and into the pot.
I took the green leek leaves, washed them well, bundled in the celery leaves and some black peppercorns. I split one of the leek leaves and tied it around - no kitchen string - and tucked that into the chicken carcass cavity.
I stirred the veggie mixture, placed the chicken carcass across the top, then added enough cold tap water to fill the pot. I put that back on fairly high heat - but as I was using electric burners I made sure I had another burner ready at a low heat.
I prepped a small bowl of cold water with a big spoon to skim the soup. Once it came to a low boil I skimmed off as much unpleasantness as I could - and then moved it over to the lower burner - and then just let that simmer for about two hours - occasionally skimming the really excessive fat.
I was really happy that there was so little waste - I'd only thrown away the truly inedible parts - and a little bit of peel.
Towards the end of the cooking time I tasted the soup and then salted with some coarse grey sea salt - undersalting since I knew I'd simmer it more - and could finish with salt at the table. I removed the bouquet garni so it wouldn't fall apart in my soup.
When I finally served it up I was almost already done - eating it was good but it was almost just a formality. I added a little freshly ground pepper and fleur de sel into my bowl of soup. It was good - but it was missing something - next time I think I'll add some cabbage - or brussel sprouts - especially in winter.
The next day it was even better - as it always is - plus I shredded in every bit of meat and browned skin off the bones. But it was still missing something.
By the way, I got my visa. I start work on Monday. Thank you all so much for being there - and here.