Rating (1-10): 7.5 (1 = makes me wanna vomit, 10 = can I pretty please eat this for every meal, every day of the week)
Tuesday evening I chewed on the inside of my lip as I cracked open Martha Stewart’s Cooking School and found Lesson 1.2: How to Make Chicken Soup. I’ve had the book for over a year (well before I started this project), and this would be the first recipe I made from it. I really wanted this book for Christmas and made my thoughtful parents made me happy by giving it to me Christmas of 2008. But I couldn’t get past the intimidation of this book. The steps are clear and the pictures are helpful and pretty, but the recipes looked hard. Too hard for an inexperienced cook like myself. I don’t know why the recipes in this book seemed more overwhelming than Boston cream cupcakes or a fresh orange yogurt tart, but they did.
I decided to start with something that seemed easy upon first glance, chicken soup. It was almost the first recipe (stock was the first – but I’m not eating stock for dinner) in the book. I always read through the recipe before going to the store to make sure I’m getting all the right ingredients, and I have all the right cooking utensils. When I read through this one and realized I would have to cut a whole chicken into eight parts, I felt my stomach tighten. Would I really be able to do this?
I admit it. I’m a girly girl. I didn’t cook meat for myself until I lived with my husband in Brooklyn, and at that time, he cooked all the meat dishes and I cooked the rest. I hate handling raw meat. I’m almost obsessive-compulsive about it. I will wash my hands multiple times after accidentally touching a spoon that’s had contact with a piece of raw meat while cooking. I also get nauseous when I try to eat meat that I’ve cooked, especially if it looked anything like the actual animal before cooking. Cutting a whole chicken into eight parts, pulling the meat off the bones, and boiling the bones to make the stock was going to be a huge leap for me.
I had to start the chicken soup well before my husband got home from work, so we could eat at a decent hour. I was alone which was probably better. If he was home, he would have taken over. My hands started to shake as I pulled the plastic from the chicken and read the first steps. I was going to have to pop the legs out of joint before cutting them from the body. I squealed like a little girl as I accomplished this, but all that mattered was that I did it. By myself. My three dogs sat at my feet watching me as I cursed, screamed, and talked to myself like a schizophrenic while cutting that chicken apart. When it was over, it wasn’t pretty. It didn’t look anything like the picture in the book. The skin was almost shredded, the meat was already falling off the bones, and the thighs were about a third the size they should have been. Oh well.
The next part entailed boiling the parts of the chicken with veggies and herbs. I had to watch the pot constantly and scoop out the foam that formed on the top. According to Martha, this is very important and critical to successful soup. From there, things got much better. My husband got home from work and the hard part was over.
Because I’ve never done this before, it took much longer than the estimated time. My husband brought home a two and half foot loaf of bread to eat with the soup, and we devoured all of it before the soup was even close to being done. Three and a half hours later, we sat down to eat homemade chicken soup. I thought Martha was exaggerating when she said that you’ve really never tasted stock until you’ve had homemade stock. She wasn’t lying. It was the most flavorful chicken soup, especially the stock, that I’ve ever tasted.
I didn’t eat more than three or four bites. I couldn’t get the uncooked chicken and it’s insides (including the back bone and rib cage) out of my head, so I didn’t enjoy the soup I spent hours making. Thankfully, I’d already eaten four servings of bread, so I didn’t go to bed hungry.After I cooked this soup, I wondered to myself why on earth anyone would buy a whole chicken and cut it apart themselves instead of buying the pieces already cut by the friendly grocery store butcher. I realize that it’s cheaper, but is it really worth it? I don’t think so. Sorry, Martha. Next time I’m buying the parts precut.