Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Creamy Chicken and Artichoke Soup

Hallelujah, the snow came back today.  So I made soup.  I’ve been waiting.  I was seriously getting ready to just start grilling burgers and making potato salad in anticipation of summer, but winter came back today, thankfully.

Did you know January was National Soup Month?  I didn’t until the end of the month.  I am usually a day late and a dollar short with things like that.  I have got to get some sort of food calendar.  Is that a thing?

Anyway, like I was saying, I made soup.  I am a fan of soup, as long as it is a somewhat creamy soup.  Broth based soups remind me of being sick.  The soup I am going to show you today is my Creamy Chicken and Artichoke Soup.  It is broth based, but don’t worry, I still find a way to make it creamy.  It is the perfect soup for a cold winter’s day.

Since 2014 is the year of the vegetable for me, I start this soup with a few of them.  Actually, I always have, but this fits right in with my New Year’s Resolution, so I’m bragging.  I soften onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a little bit of butter and oil.

Once the veggies are a little soft and sweaty (but not browned!), I add in some salt and pepper, a bay leaf, chopped artichoke hearts and chopped leftover chicken.  Then, I pour in some really good chicken stock.

I like to use artichoke hearts that are packed in water.  They are still salty, buttery and delicious, but they don’t have that oily heaviness that hearts packed in oil have.  I chop mine up a bit just to make them more bite sized, and to make sure they spread throughout the soup.

I like to use leftover chicken or a rotisserie chicken that I have bought at the grocery store.  If you don’t have leftover chicken, either baked, grilled or even sautéed, you can totally just grill a few breasts just for the soup.  I like to keep it easy, so I use leftover or store bought.

Are you wondering what I mean by good chicken stock?  I just mean that I look for a box that says “stock” as opposed to “broth”.  I think that stock has a richer flavor.

I let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes with the lid on.  This gives all the veggies, especially the carrots, a chance to become tender.  It also lets all the flavors meld together.  Once the soup has simmered sufficiently, I add in some orzo.  I let the orzo boil in the soup for about nine minutes.

Finally, after the orzo is al dente in the soup, I add about four ounces of cream cheese.  See?  I told you I would make it creamy!  The cream cheese melts in and thickens the soup, but it also makes it creamy and just a bit tangy.  The flavor of the cream cheese is amazing with the chicken and artichoke hearts.  This isn’t any ordinary chicken soup!

This soup is best eaten right away as the orzo will soak up the broth in any leftovers.  But you know what you are left with?  Creamy chicken pasta….and that ain’t half bad…..

I garnish with crunchy bread sticks and scallions, but I’ll leave the garnishes up to you.  Happy belated National Soup Month!

Creamy Chicken and Artichoke Soup

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup carrots, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons salt

1 ½ teaspoons black pepper

1 or 2 bay leaves

14 ounces artichoke heart quarters (water packed), chopped

12 ounces chicken breast, cooked and chopped

8 cups chicken stock

1 ½ cups orzo

4 ounces cream cheese

In a large stock pot, sauté carrots, onion, celery, garlic and butter and olive oil.  Cook vegetables over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, bay leaves, artichoke hearts, chicken and chicken stock.  Simmer soup over medium heat for 20 minutes, covered.

Bring soup to rolling boil.  Add orzo and return to boil.  Continue cooking soup over medium heat for 9 minutes. 

Once orzo is cooked, add cream cheese and stir until melted.

Serves 8

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