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This recipe will prepare two separate meals; Chicken Soup and Salsa Chicken Breasts with Rice. The soup is even better the second day.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of a 5-7 quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Add 1 large whole onion, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, 2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh thyme and some freshly grated black pepper. Saute over high heat for 3-4 minutes, then push the onion mixture over to the outer sides of the pan and press the chicken against the bottom so that it makes direct contact and will be able to brown slightly. (Do not turn chicken over). Add 2-3 cloves peeled, minced garlic.

When a nice golden color is achieved (the onions have browned slightly and the lower part of the chicken is taking on color), add enough low sodium chicken broth or water to cover the chicken so that the breast remains uncovered. (Do not cover the breast, so that it will steam rather than boil). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, if desired.

Add 1/2 cup chopped celery and 2 carrots (cut into 2 inch chunks) to the broth. Bring the water to a near boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook over very low heat until the chicken breast is tender when pierced with a fork (about 40 minutes, depending upon the size of the chicken).

Remove pan from heat. Using a sharp knife, slice along the center breastbone and remove the chicken breasts, keeping each side intact as an entire breast. Serve over rice which has been steamed according to package directions.

Top with a sauce prepared from 3 tablespoons mild or medium salsa (as desired), combined with 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce and 1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning (optional). Top steaming hot rice with 1 tablespoon butter and place chicken over top of rice. Serve. (Note: the steamed chicken breast can alternatively be saved for other dishes such as chicken enchiladas or chicken salad; the white meat is best removed from the soup and put to other uses since it doesn't hold up well to the long cooking times required for a flavorful broth. If desired, you can simply add it back to the soup just before serving).

Return Dutch oven to heat; add enough water or broth to cover remaining chicken entirely. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, adding 2-3 chopped or sliced carrots, 2 stalks sliced celery, 1 sliced onion, and 1 minced shallot (optional). Cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender and the soup has reduced in volume by half, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove chicken and strain broth, returning cooked vegetables and small bits of chicken. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, skim fat from the top and discard.

Bring soup to a boil; taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, as required. Serve with noodles, pasta, rice, dumplings, escarole or kale, cubed ham or prosciutto or white beans (or all of the above). Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Variations: Add chopped green onions, fresh minced ginger and a chopped green apple for an Asian flair. For extra color in the broth, simmer a washed, unpeeled yellow onion throughout the cooking. Remove before serving.

This soup is light enough for hot Summer days or hearty enough for the coldest day in January, depending on how it is put together.

Submitted by: CM
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