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Lemon Chicken Orzo
& life with the broken brothmongrel
I am a full-time soup lady. Over the last few months, I dove head first into soup production. I'm able to solely focus on growing my business since leaving my career as a funeral director in May. It's awesome, to be honest. Working for myself is one of the hardest things I have ever done and I am so grateful that I made this decision. My sister and roommate recently lamented that “we used to have soup at home all the time and now we never do.” One pitfall of cooking professionally is that I rarely cook for myself anymore, which is something that I enjoy almost more than anything else. I’ve been making a little bit more of an effort lately. The drop in temperature and the darker evenings always set the mood for home cooking.
And then my dog had surgery. I brought John home in the afternoon and settled him in bed confused and upset from pain and anesthesia. A high pitched cry whimpered out of him in a constant stream. I didn’t know what to do for him and seeing him in this state broke me. I sat with him, my forehead against his as we both cried into each other’s faces. After a few hours and a well established headache, we both fell asleep and mercifully slept through the night. The agony I felt witnessing John’s pain is the type of pet-related stress that makes me question any desire I once had to have human children.
In the morning, when we wake up, we are both feeling better. He is in better spirits and obviously in less pain - his crying and confusion has completely subsided. I gather my thoughts and commit to the ultimate comfort for the two of us – a house full of heat and aroma. I think about the perfect soup for the occasion. It has to be something classic and comforting. Not complicated. Something John and I might both be able to enjoy. I need to make something that won't ask too much time or attention of me while I monitor my convalescent beast.
Lemon Chicken Orzo is one of my most popular soups. I have many customers that look out for it and rush to buy it when it’s available. It sells out every time. It’s light and savory at the same time. It’s also the only time that it is ever appropriate to cook and eat orzo. I’ve made it many times as a comfort measure for loved ones in need and now I make it to comfort myself. There’s dog sitters in my house nonstop over the next two weeks – and you know I need something to feed them. I am including a scaled-down recipe for the chicken broth that I make every time I make chicken soups. You can find a more in-depth version of this recipe in my “All About Chicken” issue.
3 - 5lb. Chicken wings
1 yellow onion (halved)
1 bunch celery (root and tips only)
3 carrots (halved)
2 heads of garlic
1 bunch of thyme or dill
Place all ingredients in a large pot (I use a 12qt. stock pot) and cover with cold water until everything is completely submerged. Bring to a low simmer. Simmer for one two four hours occasionally skimming off any scum from the top of the stock. The broth should be bubbling every few seconds but not boil at any point. Set the broth aside to poach the chicken in for your soup.
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
1 whole chicken
1 bunch celery (stalks only / chopped)
4 carrots (cut into rounds or thirds)
1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 bunch dill (chopped)
1 lb. orzo
Season the chicken with kosher salt and set aside. I like to season the chicken and leave it on a sheet tray on the counter for at least an hour before I’m ready to cook it. Allowing the chicken to come up to room temperature will help it cook more evenly. Poach the chicken in your chicken broth. You may have to remove some larger vegetables from the pot for the whole chicken to fit. Keep the broth at a simmer and poach the chicken slowly over thirty to forty minutes or until the internal temperature reads 155° - 160°. Poaching the chicken in simmering broth allows it to come up to temperature slowly which will prevent it from getting chalky. Set the chicken aside. Once it cools, remove the meat from the carcass discarding bones and fat then pull the chicken apart into spoon sized pieces.
*If you’re not making your own chicken broth, you can poach the chicken in salted water.
In a heavy stock pot, sauté the celery and carrots along with pepper until they start to soften up. Add a few cups of chicken broth until the vegetables are submerged and simmer until they reach your desired consistency (I like a crunchy vegetable in soup). Once the carrots and celery are soft enough, turn off the burner. Add your pulled chicken. In a separate pot of heavily salted water, boil the orzo until it is al dente, then add it to your soup. Add a few more cups of broth until everything is submerged and stir to combine. Add your chopped dill. Squeeze the lemons into the soup including as much pulp as you can. Add a few lemons at a time and taste along the way. Salt to taste. Lemon orzo soup will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Strain any leftover broth and discard the solids. Chicken broth will keep in the fridge for a week and the freezer for three months.
Sitting next to John, I voraciously ate this soup and let him lick the bowl. He is a strong and resilient dog and he will be better for having had this procedure. I am a strong resilient woman and I will surely reach my breaking point more than a few times over the next eight weeks. Rory is in her first month at Yale and by the end of this season, Luke and Lorelei will finally kiss. I love it when Lorelei is with Luke. I hate it when she’s with Christopher and I hate Yale Rory. I love every era of Emily. When I’m finished with this year's rewatch, there’s a good chance I’ll start right back up at the beginning again. There are 35 more days until 1989 (Taylor’s Version) comes out.
I’d like to sincerely thank everyone again for their continued support. My life has changed in a lot of big ways this year. It’s been a tough challenge and I’m lucky to have an entire city holding me up. I love you all big time. Soups available at the deli and the green market this week include Chicken Tortilla and Mushroom Wild Rice. On deck, we have white bean and sausage, and something tbd.