Welcome autumn with French version of American favorite
More even than deepest winter, I always think of autumn as soup weather.
The very fact that it seems like a transitional season -- with still summery days gradually giving way to cool weather and then, eventually, the first rains or snows -- suits it to all kinds of different soups, from light broths to robust bean concoctions. Not to mention the fact that the shorter days seem to welcome the comfort offered by delicious soup simmering on the stovetop.
So with the first day of autumn falling on Sept. 23rd, it seems like a perfect time to share with you one of a favorite soup my mother and grandmother once made for me and that I now love to make for my wife and sons. At first glance, it might reminder you of chicken soup with noodles, one of the all-time great comfort foods. But closer inspection, and a first spoonful, will reveal something deliciously different.
Instead of the usual noodles -- which call for mixing, rolling, and cutting egg-enriched dough -- this recipe features ribbons of crepes flecked with chopped fresh herbs. They're so easy to make that you can mix their batter and cook them close to the last minute. But you can also prepare them well in advance, refrigerating them for up to five days or freezing them (stacked between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight bag) and then thawing them in the refrigerator overnight before cutting into ribbons.
As for the soup itself, it's a classic bouillon -- the French term for a simple, straightforward broth. To make it, you'll need time to simmer a whole chicken along with aromatic vegetables and the bundle of cheesecloth-enclosed fresh herbs known as a bouquet garni. The cooked chicken meat, shredded after removing the skin and bones, becomes an essential garnish for the final soup, along with freshly simmered vegetable julienne and the ribbons of crepe.
You can even make the bouillon ahead of time, too, refrigerating up in a covered container for up to 4 days. Before reheating it, use a large spoon to carefully remove any fat you'll find congealed on its surface.
It's possible, also, to prepare the soup even more simply. If you like, make a batch about half the size, starting with good-quality canned chicken broth that you simmer for 30 minutes or so with some aromatic vegetables and a bouquet garni to enhance its flavor. Meanwhile, separately simmer some boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs in a little more broth or water along with fresh herbs; then, when done, drain the meat, let it cool, and shred it.
Make the crepes as usual, and you'll have a super-quick version of the same comforting, home-style soup, perfect for the autumn days ahead.
CHICKEN BOUILLON WITH CHICKEN, HERB CREPES, AND JULIENNED VEGETABLES
Makes 4 to 5 quarts (4 to 5 l), 8 to 12 servings