Monday, January 12, 2009


There is the occasional recipe about which I cannot decide: Pass over mentioning it here or chance that it does not appeal to a wide variety of palates, like my own.

As palates go, I like to think mine is educated and broad. This dish did not offend me but I like food to demonstrate flavors of excellence, not a muddiness of chicken, lemon, and parsley, glued together with some cream. I was suspicious of this recipe from the outset because it serves 4, is made with a non-committal stock, bouillon cubes (there are reasons people don't use the stuff any longer), and requires 2/3 cup of cream. When soups include this much tasty fat, warning signs go up that the premise of the base is not flavorful enough. For me, this is one of those soups.

It did not light my winter on fire but in looking over my notes, there will be a lemon-lover who will find this soup a welcome addition to their repertoire, and a person felled by a cold who will appreciate the soothing properties here when made by someone (with several hours kill to make the soup and then to do time with the endless number of kitchen items which need cleaned when the soup is complete) quite well and energetic on their behalf.

The author of the book from whence this recipe springs is reputed to be a world class British chef and to know just everything about fine, simple, British fare. His books in turn are, if the dust jackets are to be believed, highly respected by some people thought highly respectable in the culinary field. Still, I find the flavor of his cooking just not punchy enough on the whole though the book is marvelous for its memoir-like qualities at the top of each chapter and worth owning for, I have concluded, few other reasons. Two of the desserts I have tested have been disappointing (one of them down right preposterous). It has been a long time since I could say I am over a cookbook entirely but, this one is more trouble than it is worth for me from a recipe standpoint, yielding too little flavor than should be derived from all these dish-washing cycles.

Lemon Chicken Soup with Parsley and Cream
adapted from Second Helpings of Roast Chicken and Other Stories, by Simon Hopkinson
Serves 4

I did not love the component of this flavor-base enough to tinker with it for a week. If you are a lemon and chicken soup person who prefers a more flavorful soup, these ideas may help to make a champ of this hopeless middler: Use a really fine, homemade chicken stock, even a double stock, possibly. Rather than pitching all the veg in and stewing them literally to death, consider sauteing them in the pot in a bit of butter, then adding the chicken and warm good stock while omitting the cubes altogether.

12 chicken wings
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 leek, trimmed, sliced, and washed
1 medium onion, peeled and stuck with 3 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves removed and reserved, stalks roughly chopped
1 cup white wine
2 small lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons white rice
2/3 cup heavy cream

Put the chicken wings into a deep pot, add the bouillon cubes and enough water just to cover the wings. Slowly bring to a boil, periodically clearing the scum off the top with a spoon. Reduce the heat to a simmer, continue to skim the surface.

Add the vegetables, parsley stalks, bay, thyme, and the wine. Return to a simmer, skimming the top once again. Turn the heat to low and cook 45 minutes more.

Strain the broth through a sieve and into a clean pot beneath. Allow to settle for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the skin from 6 wings and take the meat from the bone. Chop and put into a small bowl. Set aside. Discard the remaining wings and vegetables. Lift the fat from the surface of the broth with a couple of paper towels and return to the stove. Remove 1 tablespoon lemon zest from the lemon. Add to the broth, taste to adjust seasoning, Add the rice to the broth along with the chopped chicken. Cook for 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool ten minutes. Meanwhile, juice and strain the lemons.

Puree the soup in a blender in two or three parts with about one third of the parsley leaves and two thirds of the lemon juice until very smooth. Strain with a sieve into another clean pot and return to the stove. Add the cream and the rest of the parsley, finely chopped. Reheat gently over low heat. Taste to adjust seasoning again and add the rest of the lemon juice if you care for it.

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