Cock-A-Leekie Soup

The other night I was cold (what else is new??) and made some traditional Cock-A-Leekie Soup. I had some chicken legs in the freezer that I had to use and some left over chicken stock I had made and frozen. This soup calls for a stewing chicken but the legs did outstanding and it terrific in the soup, especially when I cracked the bones to get the most out of the broth.Before I put in the rest of the ingredients, I strained the legs out of the broth and chopped up the meat to put back in. Perfection!

  As early as 1598 Fynes Morrison recorded that it was served at a Knight’s house with boiling fowl (thus the “cock”) and prunes. By the late 18th century, French statesman and gastronome Charles Maurice de Talleyrand’s opinion of it was that the prunes should be cooked with the soup but removed before serving. The Scots never throw anything away if they can help it, though although some recipes call for their removal before serving. Sir Walter Scott in St. Ronan’s Well could not help exclaiming: “Such were the cock-a-leekie and the savoury minced collops….”

Recipe comes from a combination of Food Network and The Historic Village at Allaire http://www.allairevillage.org/recipes/COCKALEEKIESOUP.htm  but I tinkered with it a little bit and oh YUM!!!

Ingredients

  • 6 pitted prunes , chopped up
  • 5 teaspoons Scotch (plus a finger over ice  :o)   )
  • One 3 1/2 pound  chicken, cut into 8 pieces ( I used 6 BIG chicken legs, cracking the bones)
  • 1 teaspoon salt,  plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices  bacon, chopped
  • 6 medium leeks, (light green and white only), rough chopped + 2 chopped for later in the soup
  • 10 sprigs Italian parsley
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaf 
  • 6  cups homemade COLD chicken stock  or COLD canned low-sodium (if you really want delicious soup, though, make the chicken stock- there is another layer of flavor that is unreal
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (or so)  pearl barley boiled in 1 1/2 cps of water (this keeps the barley from sucking in all the broth)

Keep some hot water at hand so that if you have to add liquid, add the boiling water so you don’t stop the cooking.

Directions

In a small bowl combine the prunes with the Scotch and 2 tablespoons of water and set aside. Drink the finger of Scotch. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Place a large Dutch Oven or soup pot over medium heat and fry up the bacon . Saute the chicken on each side until well-browned, about 10 minutes. If using legs or thighs, use a mallet to crack the bones. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and pour off any fat left in the pan. Add some butter if you have to and saute the leeks over medium-low until carmelized, about 5 minutes or so. At this point, you might want to transfer everything to a crock pot . Make sure you deglaze the stock pot though to catch all the bits. I like my cast iron soup pot though so I jsut let it bubble on .

Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf in cheesecloth. Add the herb bundle, the chicken,and the cold broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer the soup  until the chicken is cooked through and tender between 2 and 3 hours. Remove the chicken carefully, set aside to cool slightly . Remove the herb bundle and discard. Skim any fat from the surface of the soup with a spoon or ladle, if needed. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add the chicken , the prunes, and their liquid, sugar, the rest of the leeks , and the barley to the soup. Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for another 30 minutes. Ladle up and lick your lips.

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