COCK-A-LEEKIE

COCK-A-LEEKIE (Scottish chicken soup with barley and prunes, for six)

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Known as Scotland’s “national soup”, some reports claim that cock-a-leekie arrived in Scotland from France in the 16th century. The first recipe was printed in 1598, although the name cock-a-leekie did not appear until the 18th century. Sarah Edington, author of the National Trust’s Complete Traditional Recipe Book, describes cock-a-leekie as “a famous old Scottish recipe …. the alternative to Scotch broth on Burns Night or St. Andrew’s Day. Kettners Book of the Table describes this as the modern version of malachi, a 14th century recipe that featured ma, the old name for a fowl or chicken.”

Prunes originally were cooked in the broth, but modern versions often are simply garnished with a julienne of prunes.

a whole raw or cooked chicken, meat removed and reserved

2 teaspoons salt

 

For the stock:

3 onions, peeled and halved

3 thick bacon slices, roughly chopped

4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs

4 thyme sprigs

1 teaspoon peppercorns

a bay leaf

 

For the soup:

12 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped (2/3 cup packed)

4 teaspoons Scotch whiskey

6 leeks, split lengthwise and washed thoroughly, then cut into 1 inch lengths, using both the white and green portions

2 celery stalks, diced small

1 carrot, peeled and diced small

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup barley

reserved meat from chicken

light cream and minced parsley for garnish


1. Combine the chicken bones and scraps in a stockpot with salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface of the stock.

2. Add the flavoring ingredients to the stock and simmer, partly covered, 1-1/2 hours or more. Strain through a sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. Degrease the stock.

3. Combine prunes and Scotch whiskey in a small bowl, adding water if necessary to make sure that the prunes are covered. Set aside while you make the soup.

4. Bring the strained stock back to a boil in the stockpot.

5. Add the leeks, celery, carrot, garlic and barley to the chicken stock. Boil for about 30 minutes, until tender. Add the reserved shredded chicken, prunes and their soaking liquid, simmer 10 minutes, adjust seasonings, and ladle into bowls. Garnish each serving with a tablespoon or two of cream and a sprinkle of minced parsley and serve.

NOTES:

  • If you want to make the soup with an uncooked chicken: Rinse the uncooked bird under cold tap water, remove any excess fat and and any giblets stashed in the cavity, and place the chicken in a pot with 1 tablespoon salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken from the pot to a plate (reserve the stock) and set it aside until it is cool enough to handle. Discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones and shred the meat. Once the meat has cooled completely, cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to finish the soup. Return the bones to the pot and continue with the recipe at step 2.
  • If your leftover chicken carcass doesn’t have enough meat on it to finish the soup: Buy 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts from your grocery, salt them and add them to the stock after you’ve brought it back to a boil in step 4. Reduce the heat to medium and poach the chicken until the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate to cool, then shred it. Proceed with step 5.

adapted from Craig Claiborne, The New York Times Cookbook, and Sarah Edington, The Complete Traditional Recipe Book (National Trust, Great Britain)

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