Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chicken Soup

First let me tell you that when I went to go downstairs Victor said in a loud whisper "No more cooking!" Victor is not saying this because he's "all done" with the home cooked meal thing -- he would sooner starve than eat a burger at McDonalds (literally) ... and that's not because he has read The Omnivore's Dilema recently. He grew up for the first six years of his life in the mountains of Portugal where everyone lived off the land. (and when I say "everyone" that's not a very big crowd, let me tell you.) They grew and raised their own food, made their own olive oil, made their own wine, dug for truffles in the mountainside behind their home, went down to the town spigot to get water (which is still there and people still use), made their own cheese, made their own bread (I'm not sure if my MIL used a community oven in that house, but she did growing up) ... I could go on and on and on. Suffice it to say, he knows what good food tastes like and he's not going to settle. But, back to the original point of this paragraph ... Victor was saying "No more cooking!" out of compassion for me really. I can get going working away on projects to such a degree that by the end of the day I quite literally can barely stand up. I did go a bit overboard yesterday. There were things I had to catch up on. I baked bread with the new flour I'd bought from a local bakery which is in the French style and requires a "pre-ferment" and I'm still trying to get used to that process. I still had pumpkin cuttings (yes, I saved them all) and seeds from our Halloween Pumpkins waiting for me in the fridge -- so, I made pumpkin puree and roasted pumpkin seeds. I tried an apple cake recipe, because I have apples I have to use up. And lastly (I know, even you're tired reading this post!) I made my Mother in Law's Chicken Soup. Ah yes, the title of this post ...

Dulce's Chicken Soup

I could fill this entire blog with different versions of soups that my Mother-in-Law makes. If you know anything about Portuguese culture, you know that they know how to make a mean soup. I love talking to my Mother-in-Law about cooking because she is a such a wealth of information on how to really cook. Not, let's "pretend" to cook like they did in the old days ... no, no, no she starts talking about how her mom used to make this or that, or how her mom used to cut a vegetable a certain way (and because of the slight language barrier she will literally get any vegetable out of the fridge and start cutting it right there on the kitchen table to be sure I understand just what she means). The irony is Dulce doesn't think she's a really great cook. "Aeeh, I'm not a great cook" she'll say. She has no idea. Maybe she is being modest. There are several Portuguese cultural situations where you say the opposite of what you mean. Like, if you want tea when someone offers it to you. The answer is "Aeh, no thank you." (Like this is the last thing in a million years you would have thought of having at that moment.) Then it's the job of the hostess to ask again "Are you sure, come on, how 'bout some tea?" Your response is (even though you do want tea) is a resounding "Oh, no, no, no, I'm fine, thank you." Again, as hostess, ask one more time (the approved number of times you do this is three) "Come on, just one cup of tea, I already have the water on." and finally you say "Oh, sure, I would love some tea." It took me some time to realize that even Victor was still doing this. He'd always say no, when I started to realize that he really meant yes. Finally (I can be a bit sassy) I'd say, "Now I'm not going to do the whole three times asking thing ... if you want tea, just say you want tea!" I digress. (What else is new?)

Now this soup I haven't ever seen being cooked from the very beginning to the very end. But, when my Mother-in-Law is cooking I watch her like a hawk. My version isn't quite as good as hers, but it's dern close.

  • Drizzle bottom of pan with olive oil.
  • Put about a tablespoon of salt and a shake (just a small one) of paprika into the pan.
  • Thinly slice two onions (btwn 1/8-1/4" wide) and throw in the bottom of the large pan.
  • Cook onions over medium heat until they are translucent.
  • Put two chicken breasts WITH BONE IN into the pan.
  • Fill pan with water (not so full that it will slosh out when boiling)

  • Bring water to a boil, reduce heat slightly to maintain a rolling boil - not a simmer.
  • Cook for about 1 hour. (you can double check chicken by cutting a breast open and making sure the liquid in there is running clear ... ie: without blood or pinky color)
  • Meanwhile, take about 3 medium sized carrots - cut into 1/8" slices, then chop small with a big 'ole knife several times changing the direction of your knife several times until the pieces are both tiny-tiny to the size of a pea or so. (My MIL does this all slowly by hand with one small knife -- it's not just the Chinese that feel the way things are cut is important!)
  • Take chicken and bones out.
  • The easiest next step is use a hand held blender -- stick it in the pan and churn up the onions.

  • Dump the cut carrots into the pot -- continue cooking at a rolling boil.
  • Pull chicken off the bones and shred pulling apart with a fork ... kind of like string cheese ... line up the "strings" then cut across chopping pieces into 1/4-1/2 inch lengths. (see pictures)

  • Dump about 1/2 lb (which is about 1/2 box) of "Acini di Pepe" pasta into the soup. This is the little pasta that looks like little balls that you find in Italian Wedding Soup. My In-Laws also use regular pasta, which they break off into about 1" lengths when they drop it into the soup pot.
  • After the pasta is done cooking (about 10 minutes) put the cut chicken into the pot.

Esta Pronta!

My Mother-in-Law on what was one of her happiest days to date ... the birth of Ripley. We were able to be in the Alternative Birthing Center with our Midwife Silvia -- Our families were in the living room next door, so this picture was taken just a few minutes after Ripley was born. Joy.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...


That soupe looks delicios and really comforting!

Those "Pane Ladu" breads are made to be kept and transported easily. It is made for the people who work far from home...



Xann77 said...

Hi! I saw on your blog that you birthed at the Alternative Birthing Center at W&I. I'm a first time mom to be and trying to get as much info as possible about the ABC, which is actually pretty hard to do. If you wouldn't mind emailing me a bit about your experience there, that would be so wonderful! Email is