No hotdogs in mine please

21 03 2010

I AM very exacting when it comes to what goes into my chicken macaroni soup, “chicken sopas” in the vernacular.

A batch of my favorite "chicken sopas"

As a kid growing up, this was one of the first dishes I have ever perfected.  In school, whenever this was on the recess menu, I would always have seconds.  And in one instance, the seconds ended up poured all over the school bully’s head – but not piping hot, of course!  I wasn’t that bad.  So you can see that without question, “chicken sopas” brings back fond memories.  There is truth after all to the claim that chicken soup – in its various iterations – is food for the soul.

“Chicken sopas” also happens to be one of the fail-safe dishes I whomp up whenever I make a huge batch of my chicken broth.  It’s the third in the trinity formed together with my “tinola” and “mami” – both of which I’ve talked about in length here.

To make my “chicken sopas,” I start with my homemade chicken broth.  I make it with what the supermarkets call “soup pack,” the bony tissue parts left when the thighs, wings, and breasts have been cut off.  But for when I’m making “sopas,” I also include in the pot lots of chicken breasts whose meat I later shred and set aside.  Another component that requires separate prep work is the macaroni which I cook to package directions.  I only use the large tube macaroni – never elbow!  It’s just one of my isms.

In a pot that is deeper than it is wider, I sauté lots of finely minced garlic in a little vegetable oil over very low fire – as low as the stove can go.  Through the years, I’ve found that sautéing should take its own sweet time and not be rushed.  I allow the garlic to sweat in the oil and not brown at all.  It shouldn’t take on any color.  Once it has softened, I add finely chopped white onions.  I also allow the onions to sweat and become really translucent and sweet – still without browning anything!  Once the garlic and onions start to really break down, I put the shredded chicken in the pot and mix everything well.  I season the mixture with a tablespoon of fish sauce and add about a cup of the homemade chicken broth.  I put the lid on and let the chicken simmer in the root aromatics for about five minutes.

After the chicken, garlic and onion flavors have married thru the slow simmer, I pour in the rest of the chicken broth.  I just eyeball everything.  I’ve never measured when it comes to my “chicken sopas.”  I turn the fire way up to bring the pot to a raging boil.  Once it does, I pour in the macaroni and wait for the mixture to come back to boil.  At that point, I give the dish a taste to see if I need to adjust the seasoning.  Once its perfect to my taste, I turn the fire off and add in a large can of evaporated milk.  After mixing the soup to ensure that the milk has been completely incorporated, it is optional to bring it back to a boil.  I ladle this on to my favorite bowl and enjoy it.  Best with a couple of cracks of the pepper mill.

The only other thing that I will allow to riddle my lovely “chicken sopas” is diced carrots – either the ones from the homemade chicken broth pot, or fresh.  And I add it to the sauté before I put in the shredded chicken.  Just carrots.  Not ground pork.  Not shredded cabbage.  And definitely, never hotdogs, please.

A look at my sauté of garlic, onions, carrots, and shredded chicken. Yes, this batch was a different one from above. This one had diced carrots.

If you look closely, you shall see that as I have said, I don't allow any of the garlic or the onions to brown during the sautéing. Not only does this impart color to the soup, it can also make it taste a bit burnt (or worse, bitter). My "sopas" takes all the sweet time it needs.

Copyright © 2010 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

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