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Chicken Soup for a Cold Night

I have a version of this in our recipes file, and comparing the two recipes will give you some idea of the way things evolve over time. Simpler is better, in my mind — so I've eliminated some steps. The result is even better than the original. A meal in a bowl, and the leftovers make fantastic lunches of course. I often double it, and share with family. It doesn't freeze well, so don't bother trying that, but will keep in the fridge for a week.

Chicken, Leek and Yogurt Soup (Turkish Style)

Yield: 4 hearty servings as a meal, or up to 8 as an appetizer

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leeks (probably 2 leeks, but they come in all sizes), pale part only
  • 2 stalks celery, cut in thin slices
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup long-grain or Arborio rice
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups chicken broth (canned OK)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole milk (additive free!)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. dried mint
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or more/less to your liking

Peel and dice the onion. Halve the leeks lengthwise, wash them carefully then slice them into thin half-rounds, using only the paler green and white parts. Slice the celery.

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Sweat the onions, leeks and celery in the olive oil or butter in a covered pan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally in the beginning, but more frequently as the get more cooked, to make sure they don’t stick and burn. They should become meltingly tender. Add the garlic and cook an additional half-minute.

 

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Add the rice, stirring it in, and the broth and water plus a teaspoon salt (you may need more later) and a generous grinding of black pepper. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken thighs and cook for about 7 minutes at a bare simmer. Chicken should be just barely cooked, as it will get more cooking time later. Fish out the chicken pieces, let cool, and tear into small pieces, while the soup continues to cook (if you cut the chicken before cooking, it will not be as good!). Set chicken aside.

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In a medium-size pot, mix together cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. Add the egg yolks and yogurt. Bring slowly to a boil, whisking constantly. The mixture will thin as you whisk, then as it comes to a boil, it will thicken again. Add it to the soup, and return the chicken pieces as well. 

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Keep as a slow simmer (don’t boil). In a small frying pan, melt the butter. When the foam has disappeared, add the dry mint and cayenne. Fry for a few seconds, until fragrant. Pour into the soup—it will sizzle a bit—and serve, tasting and adjusting for more salt and pepper if desired.
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