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A&E >  Food

International souper star

By Laura Crooks The Spokesman-Review

Got chills?

Eat soup.

The advice comes from all directions this time of year. Moms bark the order at their kids when temperatures drop. Television commercials tout the soothing effects of a steamy bowl of soup. Friends and coworkers eagerly want you to try their recipes. Even doctors, armed with scientific evidence that chicken soup is in fact a good antidote for colds and flus, tell patients to get plenty of rest – and plenty of spoonfuls.

But let’s face it, no matter how good it is for you, no one wants to eat the same chicken soup over and over until the mercury rises and the viruses start to die. The good news is you don’t have to.

Chicken soup is probably the most global of all foods. “Each country, and certainly every cuisine, has at least one version of this restorative dish,” writes Janet Hazen in “The Chicken Soup Book,” a cookbook that explores recipes from around the world.

By simply adding different herbs, spices, vegetables and grains, you can transform the classic American chicken soup into exotic ethnic dishes. You won’t even realize you’re eating essentially the same thing you had last week.

While store-bought chicken broth will suffice for many recipes, a homemade stock always takes soup to a new level. Opinions vary widely on the best method to produce the best stock, from simmering just a few hours to cooking overnight.

The editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine in their latest cookbook, “American’s Test Kitchen Live,” share their trick to making a potent stock that doesn’t take all day to cook (recipe follows).

Whether made by slowly extracting the flavor from chicken bones or via a quick method, stash some homemade stock in your freezer for a speedy start to a great soup, such as the classic Greek chicken soup, avgolemono.

Laith Elaimy, owner and chef at Spokane’s Niko’s restaurant, says they always start with “pure chicken stock” when making the popular menu item. To the stock simply add butter, orzo (a rice-shaped pasta), eggs and lemon juice.

Though recipes abound, they’re not necessary. Just adding ingredients, to taste, can produce very satisfying soups.

For a south-of-the-border flavor, add some chilies, tomatoes, lime juice and cilantro and serve over tortilla strips for a soup that packs a little heat. Middle Eastern soups often sport ingredients such as cumin, coriander, paprika, bulgur, chickpeas and yogurt. Asian cuisines often swirl fish sauce, chilies, coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, green onions, cabbage or soy sauce into chicken stock to make tasty soups.

Here are a few recipes to get you started.

Quick Chicken Stock

From “America’s Test Kitchen Live”

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), breast removed, split and reserved; remaining chicken cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium onion, cut into medium dice

2 quarts boiling water

2 teaspoons salt

2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of the chopped chicken pieces and cook until no longer pink and the skin is lightly browned. Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl. Brown the remaining chicken pieces and transfer them to the bowl with the first batch. Add the onion and cook until colored and softened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to high; add the boiling water, reserved chicken breast pieces, salt and bay leaves. Return to a simmer, then cover and barely simmer until the stock is rich and flavorful, about 20 minutes.

Remove the breast pieces from the pot and set aside. When cool, discard the skin and bones from the breast pieces and shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Strain the stock into a container and discard the solids. Skim the fat from the stock and reserve for later use in the soup. (The shredded chicken, strained stock and fat can be covered and refrigerated separately up to 2 days.)

Note: Freeze chicken stock in heavy-duty resealable plastic bags. Lay flat to freeze to provide for easy storage.

Yield: About 2 quarts

Nutrition per serving: Unable to calculate.

Pho Ga (Hanoi Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup)

Adapted from “Authentic Vietnamese Cooking,” by Corinne Trang

8 ounces small or medium dried rice sticks

8 cups chicken stock

8 ounces chicken breast, thinly sliced against the grain

Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Fresh mint, coarsely chopped

Fresh Thai basil, coarsely chopped

1 cup mung bean sprouts, root ends trimmed

2 or more bird’s eye or Thai chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 cup fried shallots (see note)

1 lime, quartered

Fish sauce

Place the rice stick in a dish with lukewarm water to cover. Let stand until pliable, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the chicken stock into a pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover until ready to use.

Bring a pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Drain and divide the rice stick noodles into 4 equal portions. Place noodles, one portion at a time, in a sieve and lower it into the boiling water. Untangle the noodles with chopsticks and boil until tender but firm, about 7 seconds. Remove and drain the noodles then place them in a large soup bowl. Repeat this step until you have 4 individual servings.

Blanch the chicken pieces in the same boiling water for about 2 minutes per batch. Divide and place atop each noodle serving. Pour a generous amount of hot broth over each serving and garnish with a sprinkle of each of the fresh herbs, mung bean sprouts, chilies and fried shallots. Squeeze a wedge of lime over each serving and add fish sauce to taste. Serve immediately.

Note: To fry shallots, heat about 3/4 cup vegetable oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Peel and thinly slice 8 shallots and separate slices into rings. In batches, fry the shallots until golden, about 4 minutes, drain on paper towels. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Yield: 4 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving (without rice sticks): 212 calories, 7.6 grams fat (1.3 grams saturated, 32 percent fat calories), 25 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrate, 57 milligrams cholesterol, 1.4 grams dietary fiber, 488 milligrams sodium.

Murgh Shorva (Indian Chicken Soup)

From “Indian Regional Classics,” by Julie Sahni

From the Muslim community in northwestern India, this piquant soup is particularly welcome on a cool winter day.

1 (3-pound) chicken, quartered

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic

2 tablespoons julienned fresh ginger

2 teaspoons garam masala or ground cumin

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion

3 lemon sliced

8 cups water

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

Coarse salt and black pepper

1 whole lemon, halved

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place a heavy, deep pot over medium-high heat and add the oil and chicken. Cook until the chicken is lightly seared, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, bay leaves, onion and lemon slices. Cook until the spices give off an aroma.

Add the water and bring to a boil. Skim off the scum as it rises to the top. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 2 to 6 hours (the longer the soup simmers, the richer the flavor will be). Add more water as necessary during cooking. Strain the soup and discard the solids. Stir in the mint and salt and pepper to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Serve piping hot in mugs.

Yield: 8 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 106 calories, 8.5 grams fat (1.3 grams saturated, 72 percent fat calories), 3.7 grams protein, 4.9 grams carbohydrate, 3.8 milligrams cholesterol, less than 1 gram dietary fiber, 182 milligrams sodium.

Tortilla Soup

From “Food Network Kitchens Making it Easy”

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 chipotle chili en adobo, minced

1 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

6 cups chicken broth, low-sodium canned

1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 cup shredded cooked chicken

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)

About one dozen corn tortilla chips, broken a bit

Lime wedges, optional

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chipotle, chili powder and salt and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes more.

Pull the saucepan from the heat and stir in the tomato, chicken, cilantro and lime juice. Divide the tortilla chips among 4 warmed bowls, ladle the soup on top, and serve with lime wedges, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 306 calories, 15.8 grams fat (2.8 grams saturated, 46 percent fat calories), 18.7 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 35 milligrams cholesterol, 3.4 grams dietary fiber, 1,090 milligrams sodium.

East African Chicken Soup with Collard Greens

From “The Chicken Soup Book”

2 medium onions, cut into medium dice

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

1 1/2 teaspoons mace

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 cups chicken stock

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 -inch rounds

3 cups coarsely chopped, cooked dark chicken meat

1 bunch collard greens, stemmed, leaves halved and cut into 1/2 -inch-wide ribbons (about 4 cups shredded greens)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart saucepan, cook the onions, garlic and spiced in the butter over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and cook 7 to 10 minutes or until they are almost tender. Add the chicken and collard greens and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until the greens have just wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: About 8 cups

Approximate nutrition per cup: 200 calories, 12 grams fat (5.5 grams saturated, 54 percent fat calories), 15.6 grams protein, 8.3 grams carbohydrate, 58 milligrams cholesterol, 2.3 grams dietary fiber, 217 milligrams sodium.

Indonesian Yellow Curry Chicken Soup

From “The Chicken Soup Book”

Curry paste:

1 small onion, cut into small dice

5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

3 to 4 jalapeno chili peppers, stemmed and coarsely chopped

4 to 5 small dried red chili peppers, stemmed and coarsely chopped

4-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons ground caraway seeds

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon mace

3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup peanut oil

1 (2-ounce) tin anchovies, drained

1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup water

For soup:

10 cups light chicken stock

3 medium boiling potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into medium dice

2 small zucchini, halved and cut into ½ -inch-wide half moons

2 cups chopped, cooked white chicken meat

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish

2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped, for garnish

To make the curry paste, in a medium sauté pan, cook the onion, garlic, chili peppers, ginger, coconut, poppy seeds and spices in 3 tablespoons of the peanut oil over high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Place the mixture in a blender along with the anchovies, peanuts, remaining 1/2 cup peanut oil and the water. Grind until the mixture is smooth.

Transfer the curry paste to a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart saucepan. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the zucchini and chicken and cook for 2 minutes, or until the zucchini is just tender. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, garnish each portion with cilantro, peanuts and eggs.

Yield: About 11 cups

Approximate nutrition per cup: 368 calories, 26.5 grams fat (5.1 grams saturated, 64 percent fat calories), 19.5 grams protein, 15.8 grams carbohydrate, 68 milligrams cholesterol, 3.2 grams dietary fiber, 434 milligrams sodium.

Yugoslavian Chicken Vegetable Soup with Feta Cheese

From “The Chicken Soup Book”

2 medium onions, cut into medium dice

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil or chicken fat

1 cup long-grain white rice

2 teaspoons paprika

2 Italian, Japanese or Chinese eggplants, cut into medium dice (about 4 cups)

2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes

12 cups chicken stock

1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into medium dice

2 cups coarsely chopped dark chicken meat

Salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

3/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

In a heavy-bottomed, 6-quart saucepan, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the rice, paprika, eggplants and tomatoes and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the chicken stock, green pepper, and chicken and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook 25 minutes or until the vegetables and rice are tender and the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish each bowl with parsley and feta cheese just before serving.

Yield: About 14 cups

Approximate nutrition per cup: 233 calories, 11.6 grams fat (5.2 grams saturated, 45 percent fat calories), 13.5 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrate, 43 milligrams cholesterol, 1.6 grams dietary fiber, 429 milligrams sodium.

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