Jewish Mother 101- How to Make Chicken Soup
Jewish Penicillin. Matzo Ball Soup. Nectar of the Gods.
Yep, today I’m talking chicken soup. And how to make it.
Yesterday I made a huge pot of chicken soup, chock full of vegetables, cut up chicken, and matzo balls. Let’s just say that it disappeared faster than my teenagers do when it’s time to clean up the kitchen. Slurps and silence alternated with many ooohs aaahhhs and “Oh My God this is So Goods”. One kid had a friend over, and I even got an “I wish MY mother made chicken soup like this. ” Kudo for me, the worst insult he could give any Jewish Mother anywhere, ever.
I’m pretty sure everyone’s grandmother has their own tried and true method or family recipe for chicken soup. These secrets have been passed down from generation to generation, and are never written down, but learned by the daughter or daughter-in-law (or maybe in a progressive family, the son, because really, in our culture, chicken soup really seems to be women’s work) standing and skimming and stirring at the stove.
I’ve listened and watched and tasted and I believe I’ve come up with the ultimate best how-to-make chicken soup recipe ever. It’s so easy, you’ll be shocked. Some of the tips are from my mother, some are from my step-mother, and really, some are just from doing and experimenting.
Here are the main things you need to remember:
- The most important ingredient in chicken soup is LOVE. The second most important thing is to use good quality chicken.
- Skim, skim, then skim again. It’s boring, but it must be done. Getting all the schmutz off at the beginning of cooking will give you clear soup at the end.
- Take the skin off most of your chicken. A little bit of fat is ok, but the flavour comes from the bones.
- Chicken soup isn’t really ‘yellow’. It’s clear. Yellow soup has had bullion with food colouring added to it.
- Add a package of bones to your soup pot. Ask your butcher, or you can sometimes find them in the kosher section. If you can’t get bones, add a couple extra thigh/leg combos.
- If you have time, start the day before, then chill. that way, the fat will harden and you can take it all off, which makes for a less ‘greasy’ soup. If you do this, you can actually strain the whole pot of soup, which will result in a beautifully clear broth that you can do anything with.
What You’ll Need:
Note: This recipe is for basic chicken soup. You can get fancy, exchanging the onion for leeks, celery for celery root, etc. But I won’t get into that here. Also, this is for the day-ahead version. If you’re making the soup same day, and / or not straining, see the modification at the end.
1 3-4 lb chicken, either whole or cut up into quarters. Take the skin off everything except the legs, and rinse.
2 chicken backs or two thigh / leg combos
1 whole cooking onion, peeled
2 + 3 large stalks of celery, washed, and cut into large chunks, plus a handful of the celery leaves
3 + 3 large carrots, peeled, and cut into chunks and peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 + 3 large parsnips, peeled, and cut into chunks and peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 bunch of italian parsley
1/2 bunch dill
1 tbsp of black peppercorns
1 tbsp or to taste, sea salt
What You’ll do:
Place the chicken pieces in a large dutch oven or stock pot. The chicken should come halfway up the pot. Add cold water to pot to cover the chicken completely. Place on the stove, and bring to the boil. As it start boiling, you’ll see all kinds of white foam and icky scum come up to the surface. Use a metal spoon to skim all that off. Keep stirring to get everything up and out. Be patient. It can take up to 10 minutes to get it all .
Once you’re finished skimming, add more water, if necessary, add the onion (whole), and your vegetables (big chunks), the peppercorns (or pepper), and salt. Throw in the parsley and dill. Stir, and bring back to the boil. Cover, and lower to simmer 2-3 hours.
Place in the refrigerator overnight (yep, still in the same pot). About 2 hours before you want to serve your soup, remove from fridge and take off any hardened bits of fat (they’ll be orange and yellow). Using a large wire sieve, strain the soup into another large pot. You now have perfect clear chicken soup.
Place on stove and bring to a simmer, adding the bite-sized vegetables. Cut the chicken off the bone, and add back to the soup. Taste, and adjust your seasonings. Some like it salty, some don’t, and it’s easier to add more, than to get it out.
Serve as a main course with crusty bread and a salad on the side. Or, as a starter for an epically great meal.
Prepare matzo balls and skinny egg noodles to add to the soup, if you want. (PS the best recipe for matzo balls is to buy a box of matzo ball mix. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Matzo balls are just like meringue-unreliable, so the box will guarantee you light and airy balls and not grainy rocks.)
Alternatively, to serve same day, once you’ve finished skimming, add the whole onion, salt and pepper, and chopped parsley and dill and simmer for one hour. Add bite sized vegetables, and simmer about another hour and a half. Remove the chicken pieces, cut chicken off the bone, and if desired, add back to the soup. Obviously, same day soup won’t be as clear as day before soup.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Maple Leaf Foods and Maple Leaf Prime chicken. Obviously, it’s my own recipe, so you can thank them for asking me to share it with you.