A Chicken Soup Supper
I am obsessed with food writer MFK Fisher (1908-1992).
No one writes about food more sensually, with as much humor, and common sense, all together, and I can’t get enough. I took her book With Bold Knife and Fork, published in 1969, with me on vacation last week and was highlighting so many passages on the plane that my husband suggested I perhaps highlight the parts I wasn’t interested in.
One whole page I highlighted includes the recipe below and the following introduction to it: “For fun, here is another way to serve a more impressive buffet, either stand up or with small tables where people can sit with their plates and/or mugs. A good white wine is fine with it, and a fruit compote afterward – cookies with that, and coffee, and of course crusty bread or crisp buttered toast with the soup.
This is a fairly easy and entertaining meal to assemble. It tastes fresh and tempting, and seems to please people. It can be developed, up or down, but for myself I like it to remain simple, with things hot and well seasoned, or chilled, according to their natures.”
I made a double-batch of chicken stock on Sunday, then served the soup on Monday night to my dear and marvelously food-loving friends Ana Scofield, Rudy Maxa, Debbie Williams, and Stuart Williams. A couple of years ago I spent three days making cassoulet for them and I think they enjoyed this meal just as much if not more than the cassoulet (which was good). It might have been the ridiculous number of bottles of wine we opened, but I don’t think so.
Don’t skip the “flavored lightly with curry if wished.” I actually added a particularly nutmeg-y garam masala to Cedar Summit Cream and it basically made the whole dish (nutmeg, cream, and chicken are delicious together). And no surprise here, but the chicken broth needs to be the real deal, rich and salty, without too much of its fat skimmed away. Make a double batch, like I did, then use some of it to cook the rice. Freeze any extra for a future quick dinner.
Make a rich chicken broth, from any classic recipe. A pressure cooker is useful for this.
Cut the meat from the bones, chop it coarsely, and put it aside.
Skim and season the broth, saving the fat.
To serve: Put the heated broth in pitchers. On the buffet table with them, have hot rice or kasha (cooked preferably in chicken broth instead of water), the chopped and seasoned chicken tossed in some of the fat, and smaller bowls containing chopped parsley, chopped chives or scallions, perhaps capers, thick fresh cream (flavored lightly with curry if wished), chopped hard-boiled eggs, sauteed mushrooms, finely ground pecans or almonds. The broth can be drunk, plain, from mugs, or it can be poured over any mixture the guest may wish to make from the bowls of chicken and so on, and in any amount.