I made a really excellent pot of soup the other day. Maybe not breaking news — I’ve made a lot of excellent soup over the years. But to me, it’s always an event. For starters, I freaking love soup. But even more than that, I love the process of making soup. It’s the closest I ever come to magic. To alchemy.
You throw a bunch of things into a pot with water, and you cook it and cook it. And little by little, flavor forms.
And if you do it right, it’s the deepest, most sumptuous flavor you can imagine.
The latest soup I did was a multi-stage procedure. I’d picked up a rotisserie chicken at Costco and used that as a basis for chicken and dumpling soup.
After I fished out the bones, skin, and various bits of meat still clinging to them partway through that soup, I realized that they still had a lot of roasted flavor in them. So I put them in a gallon baggie in the freezer for later.
Last week, I made up a killer chicken broth with those leftover bits and a bunch of shallot skins, leftover from when I’d diced a bunch of shallots and stored them in the freezer to throw them in a tablespoon at a time into recipes. (Yes, straight from the freezer. It works great.) The killer shallot-chicken broth was reduced by half and put into a 32 ounce Mason jar.
And then yesterday I used it as a base for a chicken and bean soup. The dried bean mix I’ve had for ages; it has something like 15 varieties in it. I took the homemade stock and the dried bean mix and added some seasoning to it. Finally, I laid some very badly freezer-burned chicken tenderloins on top, ones that had been haunting the back of my freezer for a bit.
It came out terrific. And as I was eating it, it occurred to me that none of the ingredients involved were choice ones. In fact, the components were what a lot of people would have considered garbage.
But I took the time and care to find a way to make them into something impressive.
I think there’s something so satisfying about that. There’s something gratifying about taking the unwanted and making it into something wonderful. It makes me think there’s hope for me too.