Potted Chicken Soup

by Kimberley Thompson, Tastemaker in Residence

Food memories are the largest reason behind my cooking journeys. The happy times of childhood, the beckoning smells of Grandma's kitchen, the weaving chatter amongst the clank of covers, oven doors and beaters, the sneaking of tastes when Mom was not looking, and the comforting feel of being warmly included in a greater whole. As an adult, I not only want to recreate those feeling, but I want to SPREAD those feelings out into a world that may not have had the blessed childhood that I did. And my favorite way of doing that is to recreate the recipes that I remember.
The recreations are sometimes faithful, always price conscious and easily accommodate unexpected guests.
Potted meats are basically meats cooked up with spices and liquid until they are just about minced in texture...like a very coarse pate'. They are usually canned or preserved using heat. I utilize the first part of the technique to make a inexpensive and hearty soup.
3 lbs chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat
6 Tbsp butter, divided in half
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large cans fire roasted tomatoes, diced without herbs. Drain liquid off one of the cans.
3 large dried whole bay leaves
2 Tbsp smoked sweet paprika
1 large box chicken broth
1- 8 oz carton of sour cream
1 bunch chives, minced
Your choice:
3 large cans white Italian beans, drained
1 box pasta, like rigatoni, cooked
2 lbs boiled potatoes, chunked up

  1. Start by making sure that all the extra fat bits are trimmed off the chicken thighs. Melt 3 Tbsp of butter in a large heavy cast iron skillet. Lay the thighs skin side down in the hot butter. Brown each side about 4 to 5 minutes; you may need to do this in 2 steps so as not to over crowd the skillet which will result in steaming the chicken, not browning it. Add the rest of the butter to the pan as you do the thighs in batches.
  2. In the bottom of a large crock pot, layer in the diced onions and garlic. Put the whole bay leaves on the onions and garlic. Next, put the chicken thighs in a tight layer. Sprinkle the sweet paprika over the chicken thighs. Pour over the 2 cans of tomatoes; the full one and the one you drained the liquid. Cover the crockpot and set on low for 3 hours
  3. After 3 hours, the chicken will be very tender and falling off the bones. Spoon the chicken, bones and all, out of the liquid. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Let the chicken cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Using your fingers, separate the meat from the bones, skin and cartilage. Try to keep the chicken shreds small and uniform in size. Discard the bones, skin and cartilage. Put the pulled apart chicken back in the crock pot and turn the heat to high. Add the chicken broth. Cook for 30 minutes. 
  5. You get to decide if you want the meat over pasta, beans or potatoes. If you decide on the pasta or potatoes; you will need to start them cooking 1/2 hour prior to serving. This is where you can extend the amount if you get unexpected guests. (Or add another box of chicken broth for a more liquid soup.)
  6. After 1/2 hour on high, turn the heat to low and add the cooked pasta or the beans to the soup. (I prefer to put the cut potatoes in each bowl prior to ladling the meat and broth over; simply because I do not like mushed up potatoes in my soup.) Either way, after dishing the soup into individual bowls, top with a TBSP of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh chives.