chicken & leek soup with shiitakes

well, hello there.

welcome to the blog previously known as the smart palate.

now it’s kale and cardamom, named in honor of my favorite leafy green and favorite spice, both of which happen to be my favorite color (if we’re talking green cardamom pods, at least).

why the name change?

the smart palate had always sounded too serious to me, and i wanted something with a bit more whimsy. i mean, it’s not all flax meal and wheatgrass juice around here 🙂 i even figured out how to redirect the old blogspot address to the updated domain name (miracle of miracles). so there’s a purdy new .com too.

gripped by a bad case of blog inertia last summer, i couldn’t bring myself to post a damn thing. i thought about taking down the site (dead blogs are so depressing), but i guess part of me missed it around here, just a teeny bit, and suspected i might come back for an encore somewhere down the line. so it was spared.

i’m aiming to keep my posts simple and avoid anything too precious …. a lot of food writing these days kinda makes me want to hurl. blogging should be approached like getting dressed — when you think you’re ready to walk out the door, take another look in the mirror and remove one accessory.

so there you have it. i’m back. for now 😉

and since it’s winter there will be lots of soups, stews, braises, and other long-cooked, one-pot meals.

why not get started — here’s one for ya. every winter i land on a favorite soup recipe, and this year it’s a hearty chicken and leek soup based on a rich, long-simmered broth and pumped up with shiitakes, ginger, and garlic. a great immunity booster. i’ve made a big pot the last three weekends and don’t think i’ll be tiring of it any time soon.

(ps – life’s too short to capitalize! i’m starting an anti-capitalization campaign.)

chicken & leek soup with shiitakes 

olive oil
3 large leeks (white and light green parts), thinly sliced and washed well
3 carrots, sliced into half moons
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
6 cups rich chicken-leek-ginger broth* (or flavorful veg broth/stock)
6 dried whole shiitake mushrooms (or 1/3 cup dried sliced or 1/2 cup fresh sliced)
1/3 cup uncooked brown rice
6 small or 2 large potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2-inch piece of kombu (dried kelp)
1 tsp herbes de provence
red pepper flakes, to taste
sea salt
black pepper
optional: cooked chicken, cut into bite size pieces
lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
torn parsley or cilantro leaves

heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (5 or 6 quart capacity) over medium heat.

add the leeks and saute for a few minutes until beginning to brown. add the carrots, celery, garlic, and ginger and a pinch of salt and pepper. cook for another few minutes till vegetables begin to soften.

add the broth, shiitakes, rice, potatoes, kombu, herbes, and red pepper flakes, and a little more s+p. add a little more broth or water if needed to cover the solids, and partially cover the pot.

simmer until everything is tender, at least an hour but closer to 2 if you have the time – the broth gets silkier as the rice and potatoes release more of their starch. break apart the kombu with a spoon if it hasn’t fallen apart already. i left the shiitakes whole (good idea if someone in your house doesn’t like mushrooms, since they can be easily identified and avoided.) otherwise remove their tough stems, slice the caps, and return them to the pot.

add the cooked chicken (if using) for the last 5 or 10 minutes to let it heat through. add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice/apple cider vinegar and s+p to taste before serving. garnish each both with parsley or cilantro for a dash of green.

rich chicken-leek-ginger broth
there tends to be a lot of debate about what constitutes a broth vs a stock. the way i learned it is that a broth is seasoned (salt, pepper, spices, etc), whereas a stock is unseasoned (just water and meat/bones/veg). i’m calling this a broth since i added salt, pepper, and other spices to it.

onion skin and long cooking time give the broth a really deep golden brown color and rich flavor. the cider vinegar helps pull minerals, esp. calcium, from the bones into the broth. yields a about 6 cups of broth.

1 chicken (whole chicken or bones)
2 quarts filtered water (+ more as needed)
1 yellow or spanish onion, root end removed and halved
dark green tops of 3 or 4 leeks, very roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 inch piece of fresh ginger (skin on), sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smacked with a knife
2-inch piece of kombu
bay leaf
juniper berries (4 or 5)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
sea salt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

combine the chicken, water, vegetables, herbs, and spices (everything except the vinegar) in a large pot and throw in a couple of big pinches of salt. bring to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer. skim any foam from the top.

cook the chicken for about 1 hour, then remove it and pull meat from bones. set aside the meat for soup and toss the bones and skin back into the pot. add the vinegar. simmer the broth for 6 to 12 hours, partially covered — its volume will reduce and its color will deepen (add more water if needed to keep the solids covered).

strain the broth. i like to refrigerate it and skim off the fat (easier done when it’s cold) before using in soup.

4 thoughts on “chicken & leek soup with shiitakes

  1. oh, my. I just stopped by the old smart palate blog, as I had remembered a post you did last year about Prune/Gabrielle Hamilton. I just finished reading her memoir, and I wanted to reread about your experience there.

    And, here you are, all new. Welcome back, Nancy. Welcome kale and cardamom. love the new name. I have missed your terrific recipes, and your voice.
    Heady sounding soup!


  2. thanks, nancy! prune is such an adorable little place. never will forget the marrow bones – talk about intense… i still haven't gotten around to reading blood bones and butter, can you believe it?! gotta get a copy soon 🙂


  3. Yes, yes and yes to all your thoughts and changes. I finally did read Gabrielle's book and it is fast-paced and gritty. I, too, couldn't forget your Prune marrow bone post, and thought of it recently while roasting bones. Winter must bring bones to mind. Glad you're back!


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