It’s Sunday morning at 8:00 am and I’m yanking carrots out of the ground, wearing pajamas and a pair of Birkenstocks. It’s a surprisingly clear morning. Drops of water sparkle on every leaf, the hummingbird that lives in the hedge is swooping and peeping, and I’m wide awake. I shake mud off of the flaming orange carrots, then snip a few branches of rosemary and a handful of kale before scuffing back into the house to trade Birkenstocks for slippers and put together a crock-pot full of chicken soup.
Every year, I eagerly anticipate the end of daylight savings. I look forward to falling back—into bed that is, for an extra hour of precious sleep every morning. So why, in the name of all that is holy, am I out in the damp garden pulling carrots, instead of pulling the covers back up to my chin for another delicious hour (or two)? I didn’t have any problem sleeping until 11:00 am on Saturday morning, and in fact, only woke up then because of an untimely phone call. Clearly, my internal clock has gone rogue this morning.
Whatever the reason, wide awake is what I am, and it’s soup season, so I’m making soup.
I peel, and chop, and season, and strip the meat from the carcass of last week’s roasted chicken. And when the crock-pot is full and simmering gently, I take my coffee and toast and tuck my cold toes back into bed.
My chicken soup is, like many of my recipes, based on whatever ingredients are on hand, guided by my whim. I generally try to pack in as many vegetables as possible, a few different carbs, and a bit of chicken, too. The wine and fish sauce are all about boosting the umami, or intense savoriness of the flavor. Today’s version is as follows:
- 6 cups vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces. (I always include carrots, celery, and sautéed onions. Today I added leeks, mushrooms, potatoes, turnips, green beans, zucchini, and kale. Adapt to suit your own tastes–I don’t recommend broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage in this soup, as they will overwhelm the other flavors).
- ½ cup dry small white beans
- ¼ cup barley
- 1 tbsp wild rice
- 2 cups cooked chicken, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- ½ tsp tarragon
- ½ tsp thyme
- 4-6 cups chicken stock
Place all ingredients in crock-pot, finishing with enough chicken stock to fill to within 1 inch of top. Cook all day on low, adding additional broth if needed at end of cooking time. Remove rosemary sprigs and bay leaf before serving.