Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Creamy Chicken Tarragon Soup

Creamy Chicken Tarragon SoupPerhaps it is the cold and dreary winters, but the English have a way with soup. Restaurants and cafes serve an impressive roster, I’ve found some wonderful recipes in cookbooks and magazines and the grocery stores are stocked with lots of creative, seasonal soups in chiller cases ready to heat and serve. One such offering I see over and over again at stores and on menus is Chicken Tarragon. I’ve bought it and ordered it and generally found it very appealing. Rich and creamy with this not-to-familiar flavor. The tarragon. I think tarragon is not as popular in the States, maybe we are just not as familiar with it, and our natural palate gravitates towards the more common herbs like rosemary, basil and oregano. I see it mostly in French recipes. It has a lovely, peppery undertone with a warm anise-like flavor. The fragrance is distinct and sharp, with the lightest whiff of licorice and green. I did a little research, and it seems to me that Chicken Tarragon is a pretty standard British soup offering now, with lots of recipes available online and in books, from quick and easy to more intensive. I developed my own version here, really highlighting the evocative tarragon in the stock and the finished bowl.

This soup is somehow homey, but elegant. Equally good in a big bowl with some country bread or served in delicate china. I spend a little time with it, making the tarragon infused stock to add the layers of flavor that set this apart from a typical creamy chicken soup. It can be done over a couple of days, and is largely hands off, so it may seem like some work, but its really just patience. I like to use whole white meat breasts; the bones and skin add flavor and the tender meat adds to the creamy elegance of the finished product. This is definitely a new favorite comfort food for me.

Creamy Chicken Tarragon Soup
Serves 6
For the Stock
  1. 2 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  2. 2 leeks, white and light green parts
  3. 2 carrots
  4. 2 celery stalks
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 1 bunch of tarragon (I use a whole clamshell package)
  7. 1 Tablespoon salt
  8. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  9. 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  10. 12 cups water
For the soup
  1. 1 leek, white and light green part, finely diced
  2. ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
  3. 1 cup white wine
  4. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  5. 8 cups stock
  6. 1 cup heavy cream
  7. 1 ½ Tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  8. 2 cups reserved cooked, chopped chicken
For the stock
  1. Place everything in a large Dutch oven and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 2 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken to a plate. Place a colander over a large bowl and strain the stock through it. Discard the vegetables. Rinse out the pot, making sure there is nothing stuck to the bottom or sides. Rinse out the colander, then line it with a piece of damp cheesecloth or a damp cotton tea towel. Place it over the pot and pour the stock through it again.
  3. Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat and bring the stock to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes, until the stock is reduced by about one-quarter. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the stock for up to two days.
  4. Remove the skin from the chicken and pull the meat from the bones. Discard any fat or questionable bits. Place the meat on a chopping board and finely chop. The small shreds and pieces of chicken in the soup add to its elegance. You can transfer the chicken pieces to a ziptop bag and refrigerate until ready to finish the soup.
For the Soup
  1. Rinse the finely diced leeks in a colander and shake well to remove most of the water. Melt the butter in the clean Dutch oven over medium high heat, then add the leeks and stir. Sauté for a few minutes until the leeks begin to wilt, then pour in the wine and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is evaporated and the soft leeks are coated in a slick of wine-y butter. Sprinkle over the flour and stir, then add about 1 cup of the stock and stir until smooth. Add the stock a little at a time, stirring constantly, then when all the stock is added, bring the soup to a low simmer. Stir in the heavy cream and 1 Tablespoon of chopped tarragon. Bring back to a low bubble and cook for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in the chicken, lower the heat and cook until warmed through. Right before serving, stir in the remaining ½ Tablespoon tarragon.
The Runaway Spoon

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