A good cook always strives to produce the tastiest dish they can. In my repertoire, my tastiest meals have always been braises, long slow cooked meat dishes that take tough ingredients and transform them into fall off the bone tender amazing tasting meals. Think of a pot roast or chicken cacciatore. The broth of slow simmered meats and vegetables is so full of flavor that I began to think that I could use it as a base for a fantastic soup. This method is ideal for making use of any excess braising liquid reminding me how a good restaurant works. When I use this technique I focus on flavor. For example we will make chicken cacciatore using whole skin-on chicken thighs with San Marzano tomatoes and add fennel to boost the anise flavor along with fresh basil. We will brown the chicken to produce a flavorful fond, add aromatic vegetables and deglaze with a sharp acidic white wine for extra flavor. To boost the savory element we could pull out our bag of tricks, some tomato paste, maybe some fish sauce and some parmesan rind if we have it. I usually make this soup the next day allowing me to remove the fat which ha solidified on the top. Who needs that extra fat? And now for the final secret, add a little sweet vinegar to finish. It will add a bright finishing kick. I like to use a white balsamic but you can use your own favorite.
6 - 8 bone-in chicken thighs
2 large onions diced
4 stalks celery diced
4 medium carrots diced
1 small fennel bulb diced
4 cloves garlic
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
fresh chopped basil
1 cup white wine
3-4 cups chicken stock
parmesan rind (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
splash of white balsamic vinegar
1. In a preheated large heavy bottomed skillet add some olive oil and brown the chicken. while the chicken is browning chop the vegetables. After the chicken has browed, remove the chicken and add one half of the vegetables and garlic with the tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes then deglaze the pan with the wine loosening any residue from the bottom of the pan.
2. Add the herbs and the chicken stock to almost cover the chicken. Add a splash of fish sauce and the parmesan rind and braise on a simmer until the chicken is tender (about 3 hours).
3. Remove the fat from the surface. If you let cool overnight in the refrigerator, the fat will solidify and be easily removed. Debone and de-skin the chicken and chop into pieces. Using a blender puree the soup and thin with more chicken stock to your desired consistency.
4. Add the remainder of the vegetables and the chopped chicken. Simmer to cook vegetables and season to taste. Add a splash of vinegar to add a needed brightness and serve immediately.
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How does a good chef think? What is the creative process a
chef uses to come up with new and exciting dishes? What do I need to know to enable that creative process? These are the questions I want to explore in this series of articles. As a chef and an avid cookbook collector I am drawn towards
ideas and techniques of cooking rather than just a collection of recipes. I believe to grow as a chef, I need to continually learn and hone new techniques along with perfecting each technique I use every day. Whenever I go to a restaurant, whether fine dining, neighborhood pub, avant garde, or even fast food, I continually ask myself how can I do this better, what works and more important, what doesn’t? Feel free to send me comments, ask questions. Together, we can explore and make creative cuisine.
Spending almost thirty years in the computing field, I was able to travel experiencing a wide variety of tremendous cuisine. First I became a foodie, and when the opportunity arose, I was able to attend culinary school following my passion. I work as a part-time private chef and volunteer time at the community café in North Bend Oregon providing affordable meals in a restaurant setting to my community.