Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chicken soup!

With Jo Pete and the kids away, my family decided that we can and MUST have a completely carnivorous Pesach (being so deprived when the vegetarians are around).

So the matriarchal council (which I am not part of, being the white goat that can’t cook) decided that Fran was making the brisket (I still don’t understand what part of the cow that is…), my mom was making the fish, the chopped liver (that she nearly made out of real liver-god help us) and TWO chickens (“cause maybe there won’t be enough food” - for all of 20 people…), and I was to make the chicken soup. Well, Yann was to make the chicken soup (and two vegetables).

Now with me not being able to make any soup and Yann being half goy, things seemed quite scary. Why couldn’t we just make a salad? Oh wait, that’s Ari and Denise’s job! Yann wanted to make some Tunisian Pesach recipe but mom is firmly against anything that does not strictly comply with the “chag menu”(it won’t be chag if you don’t have those boiled, bland fish balls in water sauce, with a slice of carrot on top, that only the older generation eats anyway, or in this case, if you have some sort of “frenk” dish…).

So a week ahead of time I decided to go buy the poor chicken before the chug frenzy. Now for a first timer, buying a chicken is no small affaire. First of all, do you get a fresh or frozen chicken? Which is more likely to really be fresh? Second, which damn part of the bird would one use in a chicken soup.

So I stopped some woman who thought that I was from another planet and asked for advice. She very slowly and nicely explained that fresh chicken is good and that necks or wings are great for soup, and that I must just remember to boil the meat before putting it in the soup to get all the fat (I found out later that it is called SCUM) off….

This was all getting a bit too much for me. Necks and wings blaaaa. So I decided to go for the frozen chicken thinking that if the “cold chain” had been relatively well kept we are probably quite safe from salmonella and rotten meat. Unfortunately for me, no frozen chicken to be found, so I was forced to go to the fresh chicken counter.

Standing about a meter away from the “vitrine” I asked yet another woman for her advice. I finally decided on “yerechaim” (it’s the thigh and the leg together) and moved a little closer to the unpacked meat. As the smell hit me I started to get a slight choke-heave reflex which forced me back. Why ? Why did I have to do this?! I caught the dead-end frozen chicken stand out of the corner of my eye and felt distressed. My heart pounding, my face hot, my legs weak I moved very slowly towards the packed chicken counter. I couldn’t give up now!

I walked up and down looking for the bloody (literally) yerechaim. I have to say that it looked better in the plastic. I stood there for a while looking at the women (yes there were only women there) choosing theirs. I summoned up the courage and picked one up. I put it right back. Picked up another. Put that one down too. Blaaaa. How do you know? One looked too gray, another too pale, the next too bloody. Blaaaa. Eventually I picked one up and asked the woman next to me if it looked ok to her? With a very surprised look she nodded yes at me. I apologetically told her it was my first chicken buy. She looked at me like I was crazy and while nodding gave me one of those frozen “this woman is a nut” smile.

I put the packaged meat on the little thingie that opens in the cart so it wouldn’t contaminate anything and made a B-line for the till, wishing I had some gooo to sterilize my hands that had chicken juice on them (I was forced to wipe them on my jeans...).

Even though I was told that I should clean the chicken before freezing it (80% clean chickens), I just stuck it in the freezer and figured that Yann could deal with it the following week, which he did very seriously. He literally shouted at me because I only bought 2 yerechaim. “yooo onlie gat tooo” said my froggie, “yooo nid a ole chikun fore chickun soop”. Suddenly he became an expert…!. Couldn’t he have told me that the week before? Or even better couldn’t he have gone to get the bloody bird?

Oh well, the soup turned out great. Yann went to great lengths to make it as authentic a possible, including making a stock, letting it sit the whole night and making the soup the next day. He also didn’t stop teasing my mom (the Yannush he is), telling her that his chicken soup is better than hers. He was so chuffed with the soup that he now wants to make it “often”. Oh god, what did I get myself into?

Yours sincerely, the 80% chicken buyer.


Elra said...

Wohooo, Danaji.....
I couldn't imagine your confused face in that market. You are still vegetarian, aren't you? 'cause I know Jo is kind of tired of it, true?

I expect that from Yann though, he is French after all. He got to do it right, the French way I must say.

Wish I was there with you guys, sounds like a wonderful Pesach. We went to our South African friend to celebrate it. It was great, and I must say that Pesach is my favorite holiday!

Love to you all,

oliviao said...

Hilarious, Dana - I laughed all the way through!! I make the best chicken soup with frozen chicken tenders - they are the most unchicken part of the chicken - no blood, yuk etc! So if you give it another go, get the frozen, unbreaded, chicken schnitzels!!With enough carrots and onions, you can't go wrong!