I hope this will be a more-than-once occurrence, a Storybook Dinner. Tonight's Storybook Dinner comes to us from Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice. Some of you may have grown up with his more popular, Where the Wild Things Are, but in our house, this was really loved. My kids recently discovered it in the guest room bookshelf and love the pictures and rhymes.
My children were begging for chicken soup with rice. I've never made it before, so I simply made chicken soup the way I always make it (and almost like the way my mom makes it) with the simple substitution of this Trader Joe's pack of pre-cooked brown rice instead of egg noodles. I like the fact that it's pre-cooked, I think without it you would have to cook the rice separately or it wouldn't turn out right and who has time for that? (well really, you add it right before serving so you could simultaneously make a batch of rice in another pot. Good option if you can't find this.)
Anyway, step one is always get the kids involved in something so you can chop veggies. The hands -on part is at the beginning, then it's just a waiting game. My kids can't simply watch a tv show, Jack has to get out all 3,947 legos and Will has to mop the floor. Sounds good, but he really just sprays a bottle of gentle, diluted cleanser onto the floor and does not wipe it up, which causes major wipeouts by all involved. Whatever, I got to chop. And then I got to go around the kitchen with a towel. Really, no one wants to just watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates? I am such a great mom.
Okay, so here's what you need:
Canola Oil - a teaspoon or 2
1 onion, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic
2-3 chicken split breasts with ribs
5 carrots, peeled and diced
bunch of celery, diced & inner leaves/heart reserved
salt, pepper, desired herbs (a little poultry season or season all & tarragon for me)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pack cooked rice
dried tarragon or other seasoning
crusty bread & butter
and have on hand some extra chicken broth for the next day when the broth is all soaked up
Okay, so the chicken is crucial here. It needs to be the kind with skin and bones. I know, gross. Trust me, you need that to get a nice stock. Here is what I am talking about:
Now we are ready to go!
Step 1: Heat up that oil in a large dutch oven over med-high heat. Swirl the oil around to coat the pot. Season the breasts with salt & pepper and add them once the oil is heated. Allow them to get golden on each side before you flip them. We are not trying to fully cook the breasts we just want to sear them so we have a more flavorful soup and stock. This is where I differ from my mom. She throws the chicken into the water. I like to sear them - I think it adds a little flavor, but if you're low on time you can just add the chicken & onions to your water and skip this step.
Step 2: While your chicken cooks, dice up the onion. Then dice up your garlic. You probably know this already, but to get the peel of the garlic put it under a large knife & give it a whack with your fist. Skin comes right off and you can chop it up.
Step Three: Your chicken should be about ready. Set it on a plate for a minute while we saute the onions. Season them with salt & pepper. Let them get a little soft, about 5 minutes and add the garlic for 30 seconds. You should have some browned bits. Good. Browned bits = flavor.
Step Four: Now add 8 cups of water and your chicken breasts (get rid of that plate they were sitting on, you know how I am terrified of salmonella). Add those reserved celery hearts/leaves to flavor it. You could also use a bay leaf here, but that's not what I do. Bring it to a boil and then back down to a nice simmer. The chicken will need to simmer for about 30 minutes to cook thoroughly. Check for doneness by stabbing a knife in the thickest part and making sure it is not pink.
Step 5: While the chicken/stock cooks, work on dicing your celery and peeling/slicing your carrots. After that you are golden. See that trash bowl next to my cutting board? That saves me a lot of trouble carrying things to the trash & then washing my hands. Once your celery and carrots are ready, open your can of cream of chicken soup, you're almost done with the hard stuff.
Step Six: Remove the chicken from the pot, set it on a plate to cool off, and add in your carrots and celery. They'll need to cook about 20 minutes to become soft but not mushy.
Mix it once, Mix it twice, Mix that Chicken Soup with Rice!
Step Seven: Shred your chicken, by hand or with a fork, and throw it back in the pot. Discard the bones & skin. Add the rice and cream of chicken soup (I always add that extra soup can full of water, which is good, a lot of water probably evaporated). Now just bring it to a simmer to get everything hot again. Those flecks of green are dried tarragon, that is my spice of choice for chicken soup. Add any fresh or dried herbs at this point in the process. I think I added a little less than a tablespoon. Taste your stock and add more salt and pepper at this point too.
Have Nana read the book because the soup is TOO HOT to eat and the natives are growing restless:
Okay, one happy boy and one "Mom quit taking my picture" boy.
Hope you enjoy!
For our next Storybook Dinner I am working on something more appealing than Green Eggs and Ham. Got any ideas?