Chicken Pastina -PF

Chicken Pastina Soup and Chicken Stock

All of us who take up in the kitchen have our own version of homey chicken soup. I started mine at o'Bagelo's in the early 90's and found it had great appeal, especially during the winter months. This in not a quick soup recipe but the payout ends up being a rich and wonderful stock that can be used for any soup requiring a chicken base. 
First we will make the stock. This can be done anytime during the week and can be frozen for future use. Many restaurant keep a special pot plugged in and they will add the end cuts of fresh veggies and chicken bones on a constant basis. The pot has a spigot at the bottom for deliver of the stock. Very little waste in the old style service places. 

  • 1 Whole chicken - I recommend a local bird as I am uncertain about the new processing rules
  • 1 Head Celery - separated
  • 1 1/2 Large Spanish Onion
  • 1  lb. Bag of Carrots
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Bag of Fresh Spinach
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1 old rind from a Parmesan or Romano Block (optional but very helpful)
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Pastina - small pasta that looks similar to couscous
  • Fresh Parmesan for serving

Time: 2 Days to make the stock
           1 Hour to make the soup after the stock is done.

Special tools: Dutch oven is preferred.

Chicken Stock:

The goal here is a gelatinous mixture after cooling that moves like jello. Not at all like the purchased product at most stores.

Start by placing the whole chicken, breast side up, in your dutch oven, or other oven safe container with high sides. Next chop up 1/2 of the celery, 3/4 of an onion, 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 lb. of the carrots. If you cut your veggies into large pieces it will be easier to remove them when the stock is finished. I use all the pieces parts of the veggies after I clean them.

(A side note about mirepoix - I have been asked about the packages of cut up veggies often found in grocery stores.  My fist response is usually why bother? It really doesn't take that much time to cut, and it will increase your knife skills. The negatives are the same for any processing. The more of the product exposed to air, or the more processing done before use, the further from it's natural state. So, time vs quality. I think you know where I stand on this issue. Cut your own damn veggies. It's good for you.)

I have used the neck and gizzards in the picture below as they came with my bird. All in as far as I am concerned with stock.

Fill your pot with water so that just the top 1/3 of the chicken in left uncovered. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 2 hours, or until the chicken reaches 160 degrees in temperature.the chicken is cooked, remove the bird and set on a plate to let cool.

When cool enough to handle, remove all the white and dark meat from the chicken and set aside. As your peel away the meat add everything else back into the dutch oven with the liquid and veggies. I try to remove and save as much of the meat as possible, but there will still be some left on the bones.

Fill the dutch oven up with water leaving some room for the mixture to boil (about 3/4 full).
Place the stock on the stove top and add one bay leave, and cook on medium heat for 3 hours, or until any meat left on the bones has all fallen off.

Let this mixture cool for about 30 minutes and drain the through a colander. You should be left with a a beautiful yellowish chicken stock. Discard the veggies and bones as we are finally done with them.

At this point you can run the stock through a fine sieve if you want a clearer stock without some of the bits and pieces. I generally leave it in because I use it directly for my soup. Other applications might require a clearer stock (Risotto).

Place your stock in the refrigerator overnight. The next day the fat will have gathered on stop and created a nice wax layer on your stock. Remove the fat (save if you like to cook with it) and what is left should be a perfect gelatinous and concentrated stock. You can use it immediately or freeze it for future use.

Chicken Pastina Soup

Start by adding the chicken stock from above and an equal part water to a soup pot.

Next add the remainder of the veggies (onion, carrots, celery, garlic). I cut these veggies smaller (no bigger than the size of a tooth). Next add one bay leave, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese rind.

Bring mixture to a light boil and reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.

While soup is cooking, boil enough water to cook 1/2 lb. of the pastina. Cook al dente and immediately drain the pastina in a colander with small holes. This is the one time I deviate from standard protocol of pasta cooking. RINSE the pasta and set aside.

Rinsing the pasta will remove some of the starch, and hence the sticky nature of pasta needed to adhere to most sauces. Here we are going to add the pastina to the soup when served and we don't want our noodles sticking to each other.

If we add the noodles to the soup to early they will absorb the liquid and become a little unappetizing.  No one likes soggy noodles.

The last thing I add to my soup is fresh chopped spinach. It will wilt quickly and add another layer of taste and salubriousness to your soup.

The soup is now ready to serve. I start by placing a few ounces of the pastina in the serving bowl. This will allow the noodles to distribute as you add the soup. Next ladle out mostly stock to create a fluid in the bowl, and lastly add a ladle of meat and veggies.

I finish my soup with a grating or shaving of fresh Parmesan. Mmm Mmm good.

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