One benefit of making a complicated, classic dish like bouillabaisse, as I did last week, is that the process of making it becomes its own version of cooking school. You follow the steps but as you do so, you learn things. For example: making a fumet (or fish stock) may be labor-intensive but your efforts pay off later when that highly flavored broth is poured in with the tomatoes and onions and fish and takes your bouillabaisse over the moon. Why couldn’t I apply a similar strategy with leftover chicken and leftover chicken carcasses? Last week, that’s precisely what I did.
Chicken stock doesn’t have to be an all day affair. At around 6 PM, on the night that I made this soup, I took three frozen chicken backs (that I wrapped in plastic and froze, after spatchcocking chickens over the past few months) and put them in a Dutch oven along with a whole onion (unpeeled), a carrot, a bay leaf, some garlic (unpeeled), a few whole peppercorns, and a black lime that Andy Windak gave me for my birthday. (It’s basically a dried lime and I thought it’d give the broth a nice citrusy kick.) I added water to cover and brought everything to a simmer, skimming off any scum that rose to the top. Two hours later I had a richly flavored chicken stock:
From there, making an improvised chicken soup would be a breeze. In a smaller pot, I sauteed onions and carrots in a tablespoon of butter (I didn’t have celery, but if I did, I would have thrown it in there too):
As they softened, I added about 3 cloves of chopped garlic and let them cook for 30 seconds or so (to get rid of their raw taste). Then I added a cup or so of Arborio rice:
I stirred that around for a bit, like I was making risotto, and also like I was making risotto, I added about a cup of dry white wine (because we had it and it was open).
Since wine went into the bouillabaisse, I figured why shouldn’t wine go into a chicken soup? So I let that evaporate for a little bit and then, finally, I strained the fresh chicken stock directly into the pot with the rice, carrots, onions and garlic:
And to that I added a can of cannellini beans (strained) and shredded chicken from a chicken I’d roasted the night before. I let that simmer, actively, until the rice was totally cooked through, tasting all the while, and seasoning with salt. When everything was ready, I ladled into bowls and voila:
A hearty, garlicky, wine-infused chicken soup that fills you up and comforts you on a chilly March night. Plus: I didn’t have to go food shopping for it. It cost $0. And there were even leftovers.
So thank you, bouillabaisse, for teaching me your lessons. You’re a cooking school that requires no application and that you can eat once you’ve graduated.