On today’s Sustainable Sunday, we’re cooking up batches of chicken stock to keep on hand as the cold weather settles in (we usually freeze it). Nothing could be better than a steaming bowl of hot chicken soup to keep warm on a winter’s day!
Hubs and I are big fans of America’s test kitchen where they test recipes in their test kitchen to perfection before sharing it with the masses. We wondered if Ikea’s VARDESATTA pressure cooker could make as good a pot of chicken soup as my grandmother used to make simmering it away for hours! We tested out two recipes: a simple chicken stock from America’s test kitchen’s Pressure Cooker Perfection cookbook, and my grandmother’s traditional chicken soup recipe adapted for a pressure cooker by me.
ATK Chicken Stock
The America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) recipe doesn’t call for aromatics such as carrot and celery! That’s because its sole purpose is to be used as a stock; purely for its meaty flavour to add to other recipes where it will only be one ingredient of many. We wondered if adding vegetables was really necessary to the flavour (we’ll have the verdict for you at the end of this post!).
The ATK recipe calls for browning the chicken before adding in the rest of the ingredients. With the VARDESATTA, you can do the browning right in the pot!
Once the chicken is browned, Hubs transferred it to a glass dish and then browned the onions and garlic.
Once that’s done, he transferred the chicken and any juices back into the VARDESATTA.
Then he added the salt and bay leaves and filled the water up to the fill line marked on the inside of the VARDESATTA, which turned out to be 3 quarts of water as was specified in the recipe.
Attach the lid and one hour later you have delicious, flavourful stock to add to other recipes! If you would like to try ATK’s pressure-cooker chicken broth, check out this link (you’d have to activate a free membership, though or you can buy the Pressure Cooker Perfection cookbook for that recipe and more).
The Grandmother of all Chicken Soups
My grandmother never wrote down a recipe. Whenever I asked her for one, it was always ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that’, but after watching her make chicken soup a zillion times, it almost becomes ingrained in the DNA!
For this pilot test in the VARDESATTA, we used:
- Two packages of chicken bones
- One chicken breast
- One small onion, quartered
- 2 celery stocks, cut in pieces
- Two carrots, cut in pieces
- 1/2 piece turnip
- One parsnip, cut in pieces
- Two cubes of frozen rosemary (from our indoor garden)
- One bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
Skim the Broth
My grandmother’s method was to add the chicken to the pot, add water until it was just covering the chicken and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a rolling simmer and then skim all the impurities that floats to the top with a spoon. I keep a bowl of cold water by the side of the stove to skim the fat into. This process took about 10 minutes in the VARDESATTA.
Once the liquid is relatively clear, then you can add all the aromatics. For this batch we used onion, carrot, turnip, parsnip, bay leaf and some leftover rosemary from our herb garden that we froze in the PLASTIS ice cube tray (as you saw in last Sustainable Sunday’s pressure cooker post).
Since I’m so used to making a HUGE pot of soup in a stock pot, I actually cut up more than I could use in the VARDESATTA, so the picture shown below is more than the amount I ended up putting into the soup (we used the leftovers in another recipe).
Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper to taste.
If the water is low, add more up to the fill line of the VARDESATTA.
In only one hour you’ll have delicious broth. Using a strainer to remove the vegetables and chicken bones from the soup will result in pure liquid gold! As you can see below (right) after straining the vegetables from my grandmother’s version of the recipe, skimming the fat off the chicken soup at the beginning of the cooking process will leave you with a clearer broth as compared to ATK’s recipe which isn’t skimmed at all (bottom right). However, we popped both versions into the fridge overnight to combat that. The fat will solidify and you can remove it the next day.
Our STRAPATS pedal bin is indispensable once all the spent vegetables and chicken bones are strained from the soup; it’s great to have a decent sized bin in the kitchen to hold the green bin waste!
The next morning, take the soup out of the fridge and remove the solidified chicken fat from the top using a spoon. You can reserve the fat to make Matzoh balls – which are delicious dumplings my grandmother used to make to embellish her chicken soup.
The broth on the left (the one that was skimmed) resulted in a more solidified – and usable fat – to reserve, so that’s important to note.
All that’s left to do is a taste comparison of the two recipes and load up containers to re-stock the freezer and enjoy for later. Mmmm, I can’t wait to try!
So, which recipe was better? They both came out excellent, however……
We found that in a taste comparison against the chicken soup that was made in the pressure cooker using my grandmother’s recipe vs. one made without vegetables, we didn’t really miss the vegetables. Why? Because the pressure cooker intensifies the flavours of what you’re cooking. I was surprised by the results so from now on, I’ll make chicken stock without the vegetables for flavourful broth and freeze it.
When I want a bowl of soup, I’ll just thaw it out and then load it up with lots of yummy fresh vegetables while I’m heating it. That way I can enjoy and eat the veggies instead of throwing them away when the broth is strained. When reheating the chicken soup, add vegetables such as sliced carrots, celery or even frozen peas then cover the pot with a lid. Keep covered until the raw veggies are tender or your delicious broth may evaporate before they’re cooked through!
One important caveat: I do prefer a clear broth at the end so I’ll keep my grandmother’s tradition of skimming off the impurities. This is especially important if you want to reserve the fat the next day to make matzoh balls.
If you’d love to try a traditional chicken soup recipe, but don’t have a pressure cooker, check out my grandmother’s original recipe and stove-top method. That’s where you’ll also find my great recipe for my gluten-free matzoh balls!
My grandmother would have marvelled at the convenience of using a pressure cooker to have soup done in only one hour. She’d also be impressed by the flavour development in such a short timespan. I hate to admit this, but chicken soup done in the pressure cooker tastes better than the traditional hours of simmering my grandmother did. We love how quick, easy and economical it is to make stock in the VARDESATTA pressure cooker (1 hour of cooking compared to 4-6+)!
The VARDESATTA used to be available in two sizes (4.2 and 6.3-quart), but only the larger one is sold now at Ikea. If I could change just one thing about the VARDESATTA, I would want an even bigger 8 or even 10-quart size so I could make and freeze more chicken stock! Who doesn’t love more of a good thing? I’m not complaining though: we’re confirmed pressure cooker converts now!
If you’re still looking for Christas gifts, America’s test kitchen’s Pressure Cooker Perfection cookbook is a wonderful addition to any foodie’s library. We use it constantly for its tried and true pressure cooker recipes; every one we’ve tried is delicious. We also love our VARDESATTA pressure cooker. If you’re interested in trying out the VARDESATTA for yourself, I’ve provided links to both the American and Canadian Ikea sites.
Pinning is always welcome and appreciated 🙂