It rained non-stop for two days. What an excuse not to do the laundry! I just read, watched DVDs, and cooked. Maybe it’s just psychological but I always felt that a hot soup went well with cold rainy days. Good thing I still have two whole ham bones in the freezer perfect for a hearty chicken soup with milk, just like the kind that an aunt and my mother-in-law used to make.
chicken soup with milk and parmesan cheese
The traditional way to make this chicken soup or soap, is to simmer a whole chicken, debone and flake the meat then return it to the broth and boil with macaroni, chopped carrots, and cabbage. That was how my Tita Cora used to do it. Another aunt, a cousin of my mother, added chopped cooked pig’s brain and slices of Vienna sausages to the soup. I loved that version and would like to try it sometime. My mother-in-law did not add cabbage. Sometimes, instead of chicken, she made soaps using ground beef.
A whole chicken will yield too much soup for a family of four. When I make soaps, I usually boil one chicken breast and two to three chicken necks together. I get the meat from the breast; the bones in the neck flavor the broth. My only complaint is that flaked chicken, especially the breast meat, often manages to get between my teeth. I prefer chicken thighs.
Last night, I had half a tray of chicken thigh fillets. Fillets aren’t good for making soup unless there’s prepared broth and I had none. But I had ham bones in the freezer. Ham bones, especially those from Chinese ham, are wonderful for making soup. You just drop the bones in water, add onions and garlic, and let everything simmer for an hour. The flavors from the bone will transfer to the water and you get a broth that is simply bursting with flavor.
Heat the butter in a cooking pot. Add the chopped onions and garlic and allow to soften a bit. Add the chicken strips and cook, stirring, until no longer pink. Add the ham bone and pour in about 10 to 12 cups of water. Season lightly with salt (the ham bone is salty so go easy on the salt at this stage). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for an hour.
Taste the broth and add more salt if necessary. Turn up the heat. Drop in the macaroni, stirring. Add the chopped carrot. When the broth is boiling once more, turn down the heat again, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is done. This is a soup so you want the pasta well done, not al dente. Well, at least, that’s how I like it still whole when scooped from the soup bowl with a tablespoon then disintegrates completely once you close your mouth without any need to chew.
When the pasta is done, turn up the heat and pour in the milk. As soon as the soup boils, turn off the heat. Stir in the parsley. Ladle into large soup bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese. This soup is best served with bread. My daughters enjoyed the soup with whole wheat bread and focaccia, respectively. Pan de sal is a great choice too as well as crusty French bread.