Roasted Chicken and Spring Vegetable Soup

I've mentioned my dear foodista friend Jacqueline before...you'll remember her as the girl who loves chicken skin.  Now, she and I are very different cooks.  She never "whips anything together", whereas most of my meals come together in a good 40 minutes.  She always takes those last 3 steps that moves her food from a delicious 3 to a superb, restaurant-quality 5.  It is those last 3 steps however that equate to a good 2 extra hours in the kitchen.  And though I love my kitchen, when it comes down to it, I'm lazy.  I'm a lazy cook who likes superb food but simply cannot justify the extra 2 hours it takes to get there.

Take chicken broth, for example.  When making chicken broth, I use a recently roasted and picked-over chicken carcass, cover it with water, add a few bay leaves, onion, carrots, celery and peppercorns and I am good to go.  The results are a perfectly suitable chicken broth that acts as a fantastic soup, braise or grain base.   Jacqueline, on the other hand, sets aside an entire day just to make her broth.  First she roasts the chicken (meat still in tact, mind you)  and vegetables in large pans until beautifully golden brown and caramelized.  She then places said roasted goodies into giant pots with fresh herbs tied into a few neat bouquet garni.  She also makes sure to splash a few tablespoons of water into the roasting pans to loosen up the crispy bits of yumminess and adds that to the pots.  Then she simmers the broth for hours until rich and amber-colored.

So let it be said, here and now, that Jacqueline's results are better than mine.  Quite better in fact.  What makes all the difference, you ask?  The roasting step and leaving the meat on the bone for the broth.  Roasting creates a beautiful depth of flavor while the meat adds a special chicken essence no simple carcass can hope to live up to.  Rarely can I justify adding the extra-stepped-Jacqueline-method but in this case, it really is worth it.  My only problem with the Jacqueline method is that after using the chicken meat for the broth, she tosses it!  She reasons that the chicken meat has given all it can in the way of flavor, having been boiled for the last 4 hours.  I, however, disagree.  Poached chicken, which is basically what you have left, can be used in a number of difference ways.  Toss it into a salad, mix it with a bit of tahini or creme fraiche for a creamy sandwich stuffing or throw it into a soup.  Call me a frugal cook but I just cannot throw decent food away!

So here is my Jacqueline-inspired roasted chicken soup with vegetables.  You will note that that I did not, in fact, roast the vegetables  (see? I am lazy!) but I did saute them separately to bring out their sweet flavor.  This is a fantastic Spring soup as you can throw in any number of new vegetables that are sprouting up at your local farmer's market.  My favorite in this soup are sugar snap peas and escarole.  So good!  When reheating leftovers you can also always add fresh vegetables to brighten it up.  Asparagus, anyone?  No such thing as too many vegetables, right?

Roasted Chicken and Spring Vegetable Soup

Serves 4

For the broth: One 3 1/2 - 4 pound organic chicken, cut into pieces 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 carrots, washed and chopped 2 celery stocks, washed and chopped 1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns 2 spring fresh thyme 2 bay leaves

For the soup: 1/2 an onion, diced 2 carrots, peeled and chopped 2 celery stocks, washed and chopped 2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped 2 medium potatoes, washed and chopped 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped 1 teaspoon fresh thyme 1/2 a green cabbage or 2 cups escarole, chopped 1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and cut in half Salt and pepper to taste

To make the broth:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the chicken pieces in two baking dishes and rub with olive oil and 1 teaspoon of sea salt under the chicken skin.  Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is nicely browned and skin is crispy.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a large stock pot add the carrots, celery, onion, whole peppercorns, fresh thyme and bay leaves.  Place the roasted chicken pieces in the pot and cover with water (about an inch or two above the veggies and chicken).  Bring to a chicken boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

Remove the chicken from the broth and place on a plate.  Strain the vegetables from the stock and throw them out.  Set aside the warm broth.

In the same, now empty stock pot, warm the olive oil over low-medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, sage, thyme, salt and pepper and saute until softened and a bit brown.    Return the broth to the pot and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove the meat from the chicken bones and place it into the pot along with the cabbage and sugar snap peas.  Cook for another 3 minutes until the peas are bring green.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with an extra bit of olive oil.  Enjoy!

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