Thursday, March 10, 2016

Simple is Often Best

Sunday, with the weather improving and the days getting longer to the point where we are just about to spring forward in our annual screw-with-the-clock nonsense, just did not turn out to be an energetic day. Ann was off her game, feeling rather poorly. I knew this because we had planned to go to Delaplane Cellars and drink a bottle of wine in the afternoon and she didn't mention it at all. Wising up in my old age, I didn't bring it up either. I felt bad for her, sacked out like a lump on the couch with no energy for anything. And to be honest, I just came off of Restaurant Week at the restaurant with the whole restaurant booked for a private party on Monday night, and I was almost perfectly content to sit and do nothing with her.

Chicken Soup with Shells
Sunday mornings are our coffee drinking mornings, the only mornings when we are together all week (and I so look forward to retirement and drinking coffee with Ann every day, though it might lose some of its current specialness). I was in the kitchen for a second cup in the late morning when Ann called from the adjacent sun room, "There's a bit of a roast chicken in the fridge; could you make soup?" It seemed like the perfect metaphor for a lazy day when neither of us was feeling all that energetic. What's more comforting on a down day than a bowl of good soup?

Fresh Herbs, the Secret to a Good Pot of Soup
Before coming to sit back down with my cup of coffee, I pulled the chicken remains out of the fridge and put them in a pot of water with a half a dozen whole garlic cloves and walked out the back door to assemble a bouquet garni of thyme, sage, and rosemary from the garden. I would have included parsley too for the canonical herb foursome, but there aren't any soft herbs in the garden this time of year, though the chives are just peeking out of the ground. I let the soup stock simmer the barest amount on the lowest flame for about 30 minutes, then removed the chicken carcass to cool for picking and pitched both the garlic and bouquet.

Mirepoix, a Beautiful Sight
After my second cup of coffee, I spent five minutes prepping veg for the soup: onions, carrots, celery, and red skin potatoes. I wouldn't typically put both potatoes and pasta in my soup, but I had prepped the potatoes long before Ann mentioned that she had some mini-shells in the pantry, wife-speak for "Put pasta in the soup." I find that cutting vegetables is one of those mindless tasks that I can do for a very long time. Others find it tedious and loathsome; I find it relaxing and calming. Ann doesn't like it; I do; we make a good team.

Soup stock made and strained, chicken cooled and picked, mirepoix diced and staged, there really wasn't much to do to bring dinner to the table. Later Sunday evening, I brought the stock and mirepoix to a light boil for 20 minutes, seasoned it, then brought it to a rolling boil and cooked the pasta for five minutes. Off the heat, I added the cold chicken to warm it through, to cool the soup from a mad boil, and to ensure that the pre-cooked chicken would not fall apart. And there you have it: tasty and super simple.

Ann said it best just after we ate, "sometimes simple is often best."

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