Managing food supplies in a household that alternates between weeks where there are seven people to feed and weeks where there are only three of us here generally means we have one week where the menu has been planned out in advance—a plan that takes as much advantage of bulk-buying as possible—followed by a week where we try to make due with whatever is left after the viking horde has pillaged our food store majority of our kids go to stay with their mom. Often that means a trip here or there to the grocery store to pick up one or two missing ingredients that I need to make a meal. But sometimes there are days like today, where both Amber and London are home recuperating from a nasty virus of some sort, and I have been too busy all day to even get a shower, never mind making it to the store. (Hooray for working from home!)

To be honest, I kind of look forward to the days like today. Not the part where people are sick, of course; I look forward to my own mini version of Food Network Challenge, where my specialty is “make something delicious out of whatever random things you can find in the fridge and the pantry.” I like to think that it’s some sign of talent when—more often than not—I come up with something that is not only adequate, but actually good enough that I’d make it again on purpose.

For today’s episode, I settled on some sort of chicken soup, because that’s just what you do when you have two really sick people in the house. Colds and chicken soup go together like live-action role-playing and an actual bag of rats…or…well…something. (But I promise, there are no Cheetos in this soup.) Chicken soup was also a win, because I had a package of chicken breasts in the fridge that were pretty close to their toss-‘em date and a giant yellow onion that was just starting to go south. I’d much rather use them then toss them.

Since, as I mentioned, I was pretty busy with work today, I didn’t even start on dinner until about 5pm. Since the worst thing you can do to chicken soup is serve it with tough, boiled-on-the-stove chicken, I decided to get out the pressure cooker to help get the meat nice and tender.

The result was astoundingly good. I think I’ll go back for another bowl while you read the rest…

Update (2015-12-20): I made this a second time with all the kids here and made a couple of tweaks. I’ve updated the instructions at the end accordingly, but in short I a) added diced potatoes, b) doubled the amount of chicken, c) sautéd the onions and garlic before the chicken, and d) used 1/2 cup less chicken broth.


  • 2 lbs of mixed, frozen vegetable (I used a mix containing corn, carrots, green beans, and Lima beans)
  • 3 yukon gold potatoes, washed and diced
  • 4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large, yellow onion, sliced (pole-to-pole)
  • 2 large cloves of elephant garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 28oz chicken stock (the kind with salt and other stuff in it, not plain chicken broth)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Thaw out the frozen vegetables in a pot of cool water

  2. Toss the cubed chicken with salt and garlic powder.

  3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet (cast-iron if you have it) over medium-low heat.

  4. Sauté the onions until they start to give up their moisture, then add the garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic starts to turn golden-brown (don’t let it burn!)

  5. Remove the onions and garlic to the pressure cooker pot.

  6. Increase the heat to medium high, and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

  7. Once the skillet is hot, add the chicken and sauté until just browned, before the outside becomes tough (it does not need to be fully-cooked).

  8. Move cooked chicken to the pressure-cooker pot.

  9. Thoroughly deglaze the skillet with the bourbon, and add the resulting sauce to the pressure-cooker pot.

  10. Drain the vegetables and add them to the pressure-cooker pot along with the diced potatoes, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, black pepper, thyme, and saffron.

  11. Bring the pressure-cooker up to pressure, and let the soup cook for 35 minutes. (I use an Instant Pot, which has a button for “Stew/Meat” that I used for this.)

  12. After 35 minutes, release the pressure, and—once it is safe to do so—remove the lid.

  13. Stir in the lemon juice, and serve.

I’d say this makes enough for around 10-12 bowls of soup.