February 08, 2009

Chicken Soup and Frozen Herbs...

Herbs are the most expensive item as per the quantity, in my grocery list at least and I can only keep them alive for 10 days (maximum!!) before they lose their flavor. So I end up buying the cilantro-mint-curry leaves weekly while the other non-desi herbs are relegated to be the dried variety. Then last summer I had a small container herb garden and just loved the flavor of the fresh herbs...all became my best friends.....with such pretty names, how can you ask them not to... for anything, I would just hop out and get a sprig or two...oregano in kebabs(yeah, they taste great) and fresh basil in pasta sauce, thyme in grilled meats and potatoes...Rosemary and I don't get along so well so didn't invite her to my container party.

Then the winter set in and my herbs were freezing so I brought them in..I don't have a sunroom or a really sunny ledge so had to place them in the side tables in the living room next to the window...The next day there was dirt and a worm crawling out ..eeek.. squeamish me, banished them to the cold, apologizing and promising to revive them in the summer.

Then a month back, Matt of Daregal Gourmet offered to send me samples of a new product they were marketing...frozen herbs. The idea was so quirky that I had to try it out.
Usually during my supermarket stroll, something new finds it way into my cart..some end up in the cabinet, only to be thrown out, still unused after months, some become the new staple. But this one was interesting as they claimed that the herbs are cut at their peak, chopped, and quickly frozen.

They arrived packed in a box so huge that I forgot all about the go -ahead I had given to the herb people and opened it quickly...much too quickly to read the "Danger-Dry Ice- Do not touch with bare hands"...argh!!

Eight containers of herbs ..was a pleasant surprise. I had expected just one or two...Oregano, Cilantro, Parsley, Original Blend, Dill, Italian Blend, Basil, Grilling blend... each box had a particular herb or herb blend, chopped fine. On opening, they looked a funny shade of green, like someone had gathered the grass with the frost off my front lawn. But they smelled good, just like the herbs, so I hesitatingly tried them in some of my cooking. It took me a week before I gathered the courage to use it. All you do is keep them frozen until you're ready to use a particular herb, give the container a quick shake to loosen, and shake out on any dish you are making.

My uses:
I used the herbs to season and marinate chicken for grilling. The chicken marinated in a blend of the oregano along with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika came out very nice and the leftovers can be used for other chicken stirfries or wraps.
The grilling blend works very well with fish to get a good combination of herbs in a hurry. I grill salmon and flounder often for the kids and the light parsley-butter-garlic-pepper is what they prefer so this is easy to use for that.

The Italian blend, Parsley and Basil, I used in pastas and pasta sauce and tasted good.
The Dill was particularly good in soups as shown below.

In general, the herbs work well in cooking uses and it smells really nice. They dissolve very fast but I didn't like the wet feel and taste when used directly on salads as garnish. The cilantro was the weakest herb as cilantro by itself is so delicate that I feel freezing damages its crisp taste. So, for our curries garnish, I still prefer the fresh cilantro.

They are expensive but not too much.. almost the same as the dried herbs. Compared to the amount I buy and have to discard, it's cheaper in the long run. If you do a lot of non-Indian cooking, grilling etc, then these herbs are a handy tool to have. You don't have to buy a lot for the tiny bit that you need for each dish and throw the rest away. They fit well in the freezer door too, so storing space is not a problem. All in all, I feel these frozen herbs are an improvement over the dried ones, though I do have to use them more to conclude fully.

All American Chicken Soup
This is a light soup that really is a kid favorite...they like the soup from restaurants and cans(disgusting over salty things!!urgh!!)so this is one soup that I resist adding my touch and make it as it is. You probably see this recipe everywhere in books and shows. The ingredients when bought are too much in quantity, so sometimes I chop it up and store it in the freezer in soup combination.

You Will Need:
for 4 servings
Chicken pieces with bones-1 pound
Garlic-6 cloves
Onion-1 1/2 medium sized ones cut into 1/6ths.
Carrots-3 long ones, peeled and cut into big chunks
Parsnips-1/2 (optional)
Celery- 2-3 stalks ends trimmed and cut into 1" lengths.
Water-4 cups water
Dill- 1 tsp
Whole Peppercorns-1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/4 tsp or as per taste.
Remove any fat from the chicken and wash it well. It's better to keep it as big pieces for ease of removing the bones later.
Put the chicken and all the ingredients except for salt in a large heavy stock pot( open pressure cooker will do) and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes. If there is any impurities, skimming the broth will remove it. Add salt as per taste and adjust the seasoning with fresh parsley, dill and/or black pepper. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and return to the soup. Serve hot with a spot of butter or cream.

The parsnip and celery together add a sweetness to the soup that didn't appeal to me much, but the kids loved it, so try it either way and modify accordingly.
If you are making a large quantity, there will be fat in it. Skim off the fat by refrigerating the soup and removing the solidified fat.
You could add any kind of noodles (boiled separately) to this soup, but the ones that go best are the egg noodles. We like the wide twisted noodles.

 Spicy Modifications: 
  1. Add scallions chopped up with ginger for a different twist. 
  2. Add 1/2 tsp paprika for a slight spice kick
  3. Shorba style: Omit the dill and parsnip. Add 1/2 tsp garam masala before cooking. Remove the chicken. debone and reserve. Smash up the rest of the veggies and pass the soup thru a strainer to get a semi- clear liquid. Do a seasoning of a pinch of cumin seeds and 1/2 chopped onion to the stock and add the reserved chicken.  Add more pepper and indianized soup ready.


Asha said...

In fact, when I grow herbs in container, I pluck them and freeze some for winter. This year, I just transferred my 3 herb pots into the garage and they all survived the winter and ready to back on the deck again. Those frozen herbs look pretty good there, enjoy the soup too! :))

My comfort food network said...

Last summer I potted a strawberry container with different herbs and they all grew well in summer, now with the harsh weather they are all dead. But hopefully some of the herbs(the perennials)will sprout back. I am keeping my fingers crossed. We'll see.

Your soup looks good. Although the weather is so pleasant today, I am all set to have soup anytime.

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful post shaheen..The sight of spices itself make us awaken during a season like this..The soup looks uttrely comfortable...

Anonymous said...

all american? sure u hav n't tweaked in any way ;)

Happy cook said...

Here we get the same brand and i also stock them up in the freezer.
Soup looks yumm.
You know you have 6 linkwithin on your page.

Trupti said...

soup looks very delicious

Akal's Saappadu said...

looks so delicious and warming. Perfect dish for this winter!

Recipes From India said...

Thanks for Visiting Cilantro... good to know about the frozen herbs. I would love to have Indian herbs.

Soup looks comforting and delicious.

sra said...

I asked my aunt who was visiting to get me some sumac and thyme, and she got me huge packets. I plan to use the thyme on a chicken, sumac I don't know how to exhaust.

Mallugirl said...

Asha, garage is a good idea. next time i will try that. When u freeze them , do u have to blanch them?

My comfort food, strawbery container with herbs.. that must have a pretty site. My mint and oregano seem to survive winter..rest let's see.

Ann, how cold is it there now? enough of the winter already!!

ki.. me tweak? not this one. :))

Happy cook, what all do u use the herbs in?

Mallugirl said...

Trupti, if u like the flavor of chicken , then this soup is a good one.

Recipes from India, thanks and you are welcome. It was fun.

Sra.. what did u do with the thyme?

Seena said...

Me too love them and keep frozen.Now am at home and some dried leaves I brought here.. :) Our helper planted the celeary stalks left, and we have a plant of it with our pudina leaves and spring onion.. :)

Happy cook said...

When ever i make italian dishes and if they asl for herbs i reach out for these ones in my freezer .
Also for western dishes i use the parsley.
Corriander is not availabe that much so i always have these ones also especially when they ask for adding them in lamb balls etc....

Anitha said...

Why you want to spend too much money, esp, during recession. Why cant you buy the Herbs of your choice ( curry leaves, coriander, dil, thyme, rosemary or whatever) put it in a freezer bag( good quality transparent sandwich bag will also work) and keep in FREEZER on the day of purchase. I will make sure that I am shopping on the day of delivery from my local Asian store. It will be fresh for next 8 months. You can take the bag out and take the required amount of and put it back into freezer immediately. Dont keep the herb bag beside your hob/stove and thaw the herbs.

I have no problem for last 8 years.

Anonymous said...

Shaheen,I used boneless chicken breasts for this soup and it didn't quite work for me or my family but thanks anyways.


Mallugirl said...

RG, Chicken breasts won't give the flavor at all .. then u have to cook the veggies and chicken in chicken stock instead of water.. this is more like a broth soup with a very distinct chicken taste.. do try it again and then say u still don't like it.

Mallugirl said...

Anita, thanks for you input.

Sophie said...

I have never heard of frozen herbs! I wish I could have an herb garden, but they won't survive with the cold.

Dill is a great addition to soups and casseroles! Very tasty looking meal!

Dazy said...

I like soups in winter, warming nourishing and usually make my own.
This one looks very thick and my kids like thick one though. It would be healthy too for them.