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Eat Well Be well – Winter Salt

SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – Come on, it’s not that bad! A few 38-degree temperature days and this snow will be long gone…faster than the very best cup of hot chocolate.  As it always seems that it’s the way you look at things that makes a dramatic change in your day-to-day life.

While spreading a little salt on your driveway and sidewalks, let’s take a look at how the many different types of salt can be used in the kitchen to enhance recipes, as well.  Many folks thinks “salt is salt” but that’s not the case.

In fact, there are many different variations of salt. Some salts dissolve faster than others, such as table salt. Some are made for baking or for a last minute garnish on that special romantic dish; for example, gourmet salts. Hawaiian salt from the irrupting volcanoes, which comes from…you guessed it, Hawaii. Just seeing if you’re paying attention.

Larger salts, such as kosher salt, are great and easier to take a pinch while in a pinch. These larger salts are various coarse texture salts, which are a bit larger, almost oversized granules. They add a really crunchy nice taste and a presentation.

Here is a great site to shop for gourmet salts www.artisansalt.com. There’re out of Woodinville, WA. I just love the Fumme’e de Sel or the Murray River and of course Alaea (Hawaiian salt).

One classic usage of salt is in soups. We’re in the smack center of the winter, and there is no better time to create your own chicken soup. Here are a few points before you get started. First of all, get your hands on the freshest produce. It can make or break your masterpiece soup.

Secondly, always add you salt towards the end. As you may know, this is not the way restaurants use salt and it might even rattle the cage of a few chefs at the CIA. But the truth of flavor is in the produce, not the salt. Salt has the unique ability to do crazy things to our bodies. Too much or too little can do us harm. So, flavor your soup after you cook and allow your guests to season based on their own needs. Having total control of your ingredients is key. The next step in great chicken soup is buying the chicken. I tend to purchase the entire chicken. Buying chicken pieces tends to be more expensive, but the upside is that it’s easier to work with than the whole chicken. You’re going to gain most of your flavor from the wings, thighs and drums, which will release some of the fats that give natural flavor to the stock. Side note: Stock is simply made with bones of the chicken, and broth is made without the bones. So there is no such thing as vegetable stock.

Try to butcher the bird yourself. Need help? View this clip for butchering your own chicken http://bit.ly/f41CLz.  You’ll save a little money and you’ll learn something as well.

If you buy a whole chicken, remove the breasts. These parts tend to be dry and not as flavorful for soup as the other parts. You’ll be able to use the breasts for a chicken salad, chicken casserole or chicken sandwich. This is why you often find chicken breast as a grilled sandwich on the menu at many restaurants; it’s not packed with flavor.

Use every part of the chicken. This is what restaurants do.

Lastly, make it simple. As you can see in my recipe below, I’m only using quality ingredients. Carrots, onions and celery are called Mirepoix; it’s just a fancy French term for carrots, onions and celery. This time of the year, dry herbs are great, for example oregano, parsley or my favorite, thyme. When using thyme I tend to throw in the stems and not even bother with plucking off the tiny leave. The heat of the soup will allow the leaves to simply fall off in the soup. One last point: I always buy free-range chicken, which is a known term for birds that can eat, dance, sing, walk, run, fly and roam freely instead of being imprisoned. Try your best to purchase wholesome foods, its well worth the investment and your one stock that will pay dividends without the winter. Enjoy!

Winter Chicken Soup

1) 1 Gallon of cold filtered water depending on the size of the pot and the size of the chicken

2) 2 lbs. Chicken Parts (wings, Legs and Thighs)

3) 1 Large Onion (chopped)

4) 3 C. Celery (chopped)

5) 2 C. Carrots (chopped)– Remember this is your mirepoux, keep them in proportion.

6)10 Cloves Garlic (mined)

7) 3 TBSP Thyme (with stems)

8) 1 tsp Salt

9) 1 tsp Pepper (optional)

On high heat, add 1 -2 in a pot and bring to a boil about 6 minutes.  Combine ingredients 3-5 and reduce heat to medium low for an hour.  Add ingredients 6-9 and cook for additional ½ hour.

To make it your own, you can always add your choice of starch, beans or grains such as, rice, lentils, pasta and peas; and yes, even quinoa or anything you like. You could even toss in a few tomatoes or potatoes. Go crazy and toss in shitake mushrooms. You can flavor this with almost anything you wish. Be sure to add sufficient cooking time to whatever you wish to add. Finish with lemon juice and a few drops of CA Olive Ranch Olive Oil to garnish, makes this soup the best winter soup.

by Tony Polito

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