Though spring is only days away, the talk around my house is still SOUP (in all caps of course). Now, partly that's because we've been experiencing very unspringlike snowy, cold weather lately which makes the ingestion of hot liquids an absolute necessity and partly it's because most of us (with the exception of one finicky soul who refuses to bend to peer pressure) are all soup fanatics! So it's no great surprise that we all LOVED (there are those caps again) this Old-Fashioned Cream of Chicken Soup, loaded with tender white meat chicken, carrots and potatoes in a creamy, but not overly heavy broth. I guarantee that this will warm those snow shoveling bodies in no time at all!
The flavor of this soup is out of this world and part of that comes from a rather unique way of cooking the chicken. The chicken skin is removed and browned separately in the pot, long before the chicken is ever added. Once the fat from the skin has rendered, you throw out the skin but the depth and richness it leaves behind can't be beat, making the stock ever more flavorful. It feels like something a clever housewife from long ago would have done to maximize every part of her precious chicken. Whatever the impetus, let's just say this soup was a huge hit with my soup loving crew!
Every bite is full of chunks of potato, carrots and chicken. So comforting. So warming! Toss together a simple salad and add a piece of crusty bread and you've got yourself one fight-for-last-drop-in-the-pot kind of dinner!! And now, though I'm still happy that soup is "in", can we please, please get some warmer weather?!!
Old-Fashioned Cream of Chicken Soup
Makes 6 servings
Prep Time: About 1 hour
- 1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 leeks, root ends and dark green parts removed and discarded
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup dry sherry
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 3-4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
- 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup half and half (you can use fat-free--it'll just be less creamy)
1. Remove the skin from the chicken and set aside but do not throw out. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Into a large pot or Dutch oven, place the removed chicken skin and the water. Turn the heat to medium-low and mostly cover the pot with the lid, letting the chicken skin render into fat and covering the bottom of the pot, about 7 minutes.
2. Uncover the pot, turn the heat to medium and let the skin cook more until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip halfway through the process.
3. While the chicken skin is cooking in Step 1 & 2, cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Cut into thin half moons and place in a colander. Rinse well with cold water and set aside.
4. Once Step 2 is completed, add the leeks and butter to the pot and cook for about 3 minutes, just until the leeks are softened. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the sherry and cook until the liquid is evaporated, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the broth and then add the chicken, potatoes, carrots and bay leaf. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Then lower to medium heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is entirely cooked through (if the chicken breasts are very thick, you may need to cook this longer).
5. Remove chicken and transfer to a plate. Let cool for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, allow the soup to simmer and skim off any foam or grease from the top if you can. When chicken is cool enough, shred into bite-sized pieces and throw out bones. Remove the chicken skin and bay leaf from the soup. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the cooked chicken and the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. Be careful if you reheat this not to let it come to a boil or the cream might curdle.
Note: Recipe adapted from All-Time Best Soups by Cooks Illustrated. I toyed around a lot with ingredients and proportions here, leaving out the thyme and fresh chives and increasing the carrots and subbing in half and half for the heavy cream. Feel free to add different veggies or spices.