What Came First?

In this case, the chicken.

A simple chicken, roasted whole with a bit of homemade ghee rubbed under the skin for good measure. I have yet to settle on a method for roasting chicken that completely satisfies, but rest assured you’ll hear about it once I do. Apparently I’m not the only one who struggles with this paradigm of home cooking, however, as there is little consensus out there on how to do it right.

I generally cook a whole chicken about once a week–sometimes roasted, sometimes boiled, always enough to last for a few meals. A whole chicken is the meaty gift that keeps on giving. Fresh out of the oven, you flip it over and eat those lovely little oysters off of it’s back. Once it’s cooled a bit, you carve off enough for dinner with whatever vegetables you have on hand. The next day, chop a generous handful to toss on top of a salad. Finally, and oh-so-importantly, save the bones and make a simple stock.

Stock was always the end result of roast chicken when I was growing up. Our freezer was fit to burst with various yogurt containers labeled “spicy chx,” “grilled chx,” and so on. When it came time to prepare a soup or stew, the yogurt shaped stock cubes thawed quickly in a saucepan and were infinitely better than the available options in boxes or cans at the supermarket.

For a quick and dirty stock just toss the bones, scraps, and bits into a saucepan and add enough water to cover. If you’re feeling adventurous, throw in some limp celery or floppy carrots. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let it bubble gently on the back of the stove until your house smells wonderful and you need to get to bed. Usually about an hour will suffice–give it more if you can.

And then comes the egg.

Having good stock on hand opens up a wonderful world of soups and one of the quickest and most rewarding is a simple egg drop soup. Feel free to take it in the Asian direction if you’d like–scallions and sliced up bok choy are a great combination–but don’t feel limited! Any vegetable medley will work, provided you give them enough time to cook. Be sure to hold off on the eggs until the vegetables are at the desired tenderness. Cooking the eggs too long will yield rubbery strands.

Egg Drop Soup With Spinach

(Serves one person as a lighter meal–add an extra egg or use as a side for something more substantial)

  • 1 quart chicken stock, homemade is best
  • Salt, pepper, and any other appropriate seasonings (I used a bit of parsley–chopped scallions, garlic, etc. would also work well)
  • 2-3 cups fresh spinach, chopped into bite-sized strips if the leaves are large
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten in a separate bowl

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan.

Season the stock to taste with salt, pepper, and seasonings of choice.

Add the greenery and cook for 3-5 minutes until completely tender. If using something firmer, such as kale or sliced carrots, be sure to add a few minutes to the cook time.

Turn the heat off and pour the beaten eggs into the stock and veggie mixture, stirring gently. You want to stir just enough to create long, tender strands of eggy goodness. Do not stir or whisk aggressively unless you want something resembling scrambled eggs swimming in a pool of broth.

This keeps fairly well, so double the eggs and make a big batch if you want something to reheat the next day. Be sure to reheat gently, though, to avoid the aforementioned scrambled egg situation…

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