Chicken Vegetable Soup

Q:  Which foods are your natural defense against wintry weather?

Winter came early to the Northeast, and proceeded to pummel us all into a frozen state of cranky submission. I don't even think the groundhog's lack of a shadow can do us any good at this point, also considering he's a known trickster.  The best plan of attack is to max out your library book allowance, join Netflix, make some soup, and hunker down until things start to think about growing again.  And if you live in a warm climate, make soup and take it to the park, because you can.

Chicken soup is an easy, awesome winter meal, and it can make a ton for leftovers. It's even suspected to be scientifically helpful for sickness, working to resolve cold symptoms faster.  For the gluten free individual, soup falls into the "lurker" category, as in, it can contain unassumingly sinister hidden ingredients.  Most canned soups contain straight-up wheat, even if they're vegetable-based, and most others use broth or bouillion with unfriendly ingredients.  Even if you aren't g-f, maybe ask yourself how exactly wheat finds its way into a can of chicken soup, and opt for making your own.  

Chicken Vegetable Soup

*This is a flexible recipe - add or substitute your favorite winter vegetables.  If they're wimpy, like zucchini, add in the last 10 minutes of simmering, with the corn.  If they are macho, like parsnips, treat them as potatoes and carrots in the recipe.
*The chicken can be omitted, although  if you leave it out, consider adding some cooked brown rice or white beans when serving.  
*Keep the veggies diced in the same size proportions, so they cook evenly and are easier to eat.  
*A bouquet garni adds flavor, a fancy way to say some herbs tied up in a bundle.  
*Cut the ingredients amounts in half for a smaller batch.

8 cups of gluten free chicken or vegetable broth
4 - 6 small carrots, depending on how carroty you like it, peeled and diced
4 ribs of celery, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
4 - 6 fresh chicken drumsticks, skin on OR your favorite local rotisserie chicken
4 - 5 medium red potatoes, diced (try it with skins on for nice color and extra fiber!)
1/2 cup frozen corn, or shaved fresh corn if you're lucky enough to have it locally
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of your favorite cooking olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed but whole
3  6" sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper 
8" x 8" piece of cheesecloth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place drumsticks on a rimmed baking sheet, rubbing with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper, and the rosemary leaves from one sprig.  Roast for about 30 - 35 minutes, depending on your oven, until the juices run clear.  Allow chicken to cool, remove skin and shred.  Alternately, if you're using rotisserie chicken, remove the skin and shred about 1 1/2 cups.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, after prepping all veggie ingredients, make your bouquet garni - lay the cheesecloth square flat, place the remaining 2 sprigs of  rosemary and the garlic cloves (and any other fresh herbs you might prefer, like sage or thyme) in the center of the cheesecloth, and gather the material to make a little bundle.  Knot the end or secure with a bread tie or piece of string.  Set aside.

In a 4+ quart stock pot or dutch oven, sautee the celery and onion in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are fragrant and translucent, about 3 - 5 minutes.  

Add the broth, carrots, potatoes, and chicken.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover with the bouquet garni propped between the pot edge and lid.

Simmer for about 25 - 35 minutes, and add the corn.  Test for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as desired. Simmer about 10 minutes more, until the carrots and potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork.  The soup should never be at a furiously rolling boil - if this happens, reduce the heat or add a little broth or water if needed.

Serve in a big cup with a large spoon.  I'm a fan of Chinese soup spoons - simply stated, a much better design for eating soup.  Makes at least 8 healthy servings.  I save glass salsa jars and small pickle jars to divide the soup into individual-sized servings for transporting - just make sure the lid seals tightly.  I've also successfully frozen the individual servings, just defrost and heat covered on low as warranted.

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