Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recipe for a 3-Day Chicken Soup

First, throw a dinner party. Invite everyone you know. Buy a few bottles of wine, some onions, and a chicken. Stuff the chicken with onions (halved), some peppercorns, and a bayleaf. Rub the outside with olive oil and then with salt. Roast it in the oven at 350ºF for at least two and a half hours. Don't trust your meat thermometer.

As friends trickle in (each bearing a bottle of wine), make baking-powder biscuits and several vegetable sides. Give hugs enthusiastically, but carefully, mindful of your floury hands. Baste the chicken every half hour -- first with olive oil, then its own juices as they collect in the bottom of the pan.

If someone brings pink champagne, drink a toast to friends and feasting. Let someone else set the table. When the bones are easily jiggled in their sockets, serve the bird -- no matter what the meat thermometer says.

Enjoy dinner. Drink all the wine. Eat chicken off your fingers and stuff yourselves, now, with juicy onions. Celebrate. Make spontaneous calls to absent friends and put them on speakerphone. When everyone's tired of eating, make music. Then break out the boardgames, and brownies for dessert.

When at last all the feasting is done, when it's 2AM and your guests plead exhaustion and work in the morning, bid them goodnight. Gather together the remains of the chicken, every bone you can find and any bits of skin and meat that have not been eaten. Put them all in your largest pot. Pour and scrape all the grease from the roasting pan in there, too, and then fill it with water and add two more onions, six peppercorns, and at least two teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil while you load the dishwasher. Turn down to a simmer, at the lowest possible flame, overnight.

In the morning, the house smells delightful. Turn off the heat and let the broth cool for an hour while you have breakfast. Then pick out the bones. Use a long-handled, slotted spoon and your fingers -- pick any last bit of meat from the skeleton and put it back in the soup. Be careful not to crush those tiny vertebrae; treat it with respect.

Put the broth back on the heat, add more salt if necessary, and go to the beach.

On the way back, sunburnt and damp-haired, still in your bathing suit, stop at the grocery store. Buy a bunch of loose celery, fresh parsley, and four or five carrots. Don't use the self-checkout lanes. Get some rice, too, if you don't know whether you have some at home.

Chop the veggies and the parsley up smallish, and add them to the broth. You should have been able to smell it as you were coming up the walk. Pour in three, four, or five cups of rice -- consider how thick you like your soup, and the depth of the pot. Return to a boil, and then simmer for another day or two, adding water anytime the level of the broth drops too far. Stir at least a few times a day (this is the part I forgot).

Around noon on the third day, start bread dough. Let it rise twice and it should be baked in time to serve with soup for dinner.

(this was actually written in July -- some of you may remember the dinner party in question -- and I only just finally got around to typing up and posting it!)

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