Chicken Orzo Soup with Greek Oregano and Spinach December 12, 2014

 

Hearty Chicken Orzo Soup with Greek Oregano and Spinach   December 12, 2014IMG_4971

Well as the snow descends on us, there is nothing better than cozying up with a Delicious, Hearty, bowl of an old time favorite….. Chicken Noodle Soup! I have just a few twist on wonderful comfort food and it is really really good. Of course I don’t post it until I try it out on all my friends and family and they just gobbled this soup up!

This is not my Mom’s Greek chicken soup and frankly as she got older, different ingredients kept finding their way into her original recipe and let’s just say it was different….lol!  I love you Mom, but not everything in the pantry qualifies as a substitute ingredient. Believe me when I tell you we grew up on Campbell’s chicken noodle and admit to this day, I could eat the whole can, lol!

My version begins with replacing the regular noodles with orzo pasta, fresh spinach and kale. Yet I really believe it is the Greek Oregano that makes it so delicious. I get dried Greek oregano from our local Greek store Prima Foods, here in Baltimore, but you can buy it at most grocery stores. Greek oregano has a strong smell and flavor that is the perfect herb to make this soup so delicious. The key is to sauté the dried Greek oregano with the carrots, celery and onions in the very beginning, releasing its flavor even more.

The other herb that makes this soup great is fresh thyme. I just buy a little pack at the market and leave it whole on the stem as I sauté it with the vegetables and oregano. The tender leaves will fall off and  then you just pull out the stems and throw them away. The flavors of the two herbs give this soup the edge over your traditional Chicken noodle.

 Also, I do not like gummy or pasty pasta, so I cook my orzo in a separate pot, drain it, rinse it and save it to put in at the end.  The spinach and kale are not only great for color, but they add flavor and nutrients. Kale has come a long way and it has jumped from garnish to headline in many dishes. The Kale and Spinach go in at the end and they just need a couple minutes to transform into the perfect texture.

 Ok, now we talk Chicken….as I have explained  in my other Blog post for the Greek Avgolemono soup……..Roasted Chickens make the best stock in half the time. Bj’s, and Sam’s Club have the best chickens for an amazing price.IMG_4944

I love them because for $5.00 you get a whole rotisserie roaster, not some little skimpy scrawny chicken and it is ready when you need it. Even if you eat some of the chicken for dinner, there is plenty of meat left for the soup.

I do have to say, that it has been embarrassing at times when I arrive at Bj’s to get a chicken or three, lol….and I am waiting in line with 20 other people, I just want to say, “I do cook, this is for soup, I can roast a chicken”, lol! Then all bets are off when they start putting the chickens out and we start elbowing each other to get to the best ones and load our carts. Is this sounding like an obsession, Lol again!

The key is how to get every bit of meat off the bone. Simple…..place your already roasted chicken in a disposable pan with a little water in the bottom and cover it completely with foil. Then bake it in the oven for 2 more hours at 350 degrees. When you take it out, let it cool enough to handle and the meat will just fall off the bone.IMG_4953

Then all the bones, skin, scraps you will place in a big pot and cover with 4 quarts of water. Now you can just place the chicken in the pot of water and let it boil for an hour and strain it, but it tends to shred the meat and it is harder to separate from any fat or gristle. Either way, this will be a hardy stock and a delicious base for your soup. I also through in the scraps from the celery, onions and carrots to enrich the flavor.

Salt…….this is something that is needed when making your own stock. Everyone is trying to lower their sodium intake and I have a diabetic in my camp that has to be careful. But…. even the low sodium broths still have  more salt than you would think and if you use bouillon cubes, it is sky high. Remember the first ingredient listed on any food, is what that item contains the most of.  Just taste before you add any chicken base or bouillon so you don’t over salt.

Here is the recipe, I hope you like it as much as everyone else. Just grab a loaf of Greek … French or Italian bread and…..well let’s just say I could eat 2 bowls, plus the loaf of bread…..it’s my weakness, lol!!!

Hearty Chicken Orzo Soup with Greek Oregano and SpinachIMG_4961IMG_4950

1 cooked oven stuffer Rotisserie chicken

1 bunch celery

1  one pound bag of baby carrots ( sliced on an angle)

1 large vidalia onion

1 med red onion

4-6 cloves of garlic ( minced)

1/2 stick butter

1/4 cup olive oil

package of fresh thyme

1 tbsp. Greek oregano

Roasted Chicken Broth

Roasted Chicken Broth

2 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. garlic powderIMG_4959

1 tbsp. sea salt

1-2 tsp cayenne pepper ( optional..my people love it spicy)

1 1/2 cups orzo pasta (cooked, rinsed and drained)

4 cups chopped kale ( no stems)

2 cups chopped fresh spinach or one frozen small box of chopped spinach thawed

Place covered chicken in a 350 degree oven or in a pot and fill with the water. Start cutting the celery, red and white onion, garlic and the carrots, placing all scrapes in a large soup pot. Now using another and  your biggest soup pot melt the butter and the olive oil, then add all of the vegetables and reduce heat to med-low. Stir well and then add the stems of fresh thyme, Greek oregano, black pepper, garlic powder, salt and cayenne if you are a spicy cook!

 While these vegetables sauté, boil water for the orzo and add a little salt. bring to a boil, cook orzo until just tender, drain, rinse and set aside. Cut up kale and spinach in small pieces or drain spinach if using frozen. Continue to stir the vegetables often, while they are cooking until they become tender.

 Pull chicken from the oven, cool until you can handle it, then all you need to do is gently push down on the meat and it will fall off the bone. You will be amazed at the amount of meat you will get off of this chicken. Place all of the scraps and bones, including the skin into the stock pot with the vegetable scraps and water and boil for an hour on med-high heat. Cut up the chicken in small pieces and add to the sautéed vegetables, stir gently.

 After the stock has boiled an hour, drain using cheesecloth if you have it or a large brawny paper towel to capture all the scraps. Then strain the stock back into the pot with the vegetables and chicken.

Chicken Orzo Soup with Greek Oregano and Spinach

Chicken Orzo Soup with Greek Oregano and Spinach

IMG_4963

Stir and then add the kale and spinach, cook an additional 10 minutes, turn off and add the orzo pasta. Taste for spices and salt and serve. Now, if you are not eating the soup until the next day, cool and then refrigerate, it will be even better the next day as the flavors blend into each other!

 Chicken orzo Soup with Greek Oregano and Spinach

Chicken orzo Soup with Greek Oregano and Spinach

Enjoy!

Cheff Steff

 
 

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