Monday, December 7, 2009

Chicken Soup

Ah, Jewish penicillin, as they say. Nothing tastes better than home-made chicken soup when one is feeling under the weather. This crazy TX weather (snow on Friday!) has snuck up on us, and now my husband is sick, too. Plus, it seems I can't get enough soup these days since the weather turned cooler - as I look back and realize that I've made one, after another, after another.

Making chicken soup isn't very difficult at all, but it does take time, and a few tips make the difference. These I've learned from various sources over the years. Of course, starting with the boiler plate from my mom and grandma, and going from there.

Tip #1 - you must use chicken with bones. Any chef will tell you that bones have flavor, but equally important in the case of making soup, is that cooking the bones & cartilage releases the natural gelatin. Note: This also means that the soup will 'set' after it cools down in the frdige. You can either start with a whole chicken, and/or use parts that have a higher bone-meat ratio like legs and wings. Bonus - these parts are usually less costly than boneless breasts. I made this soup yesterday with a few pounds of organic drumsticks and only paid $6.

Tip #2 - throw everything in and worry about making it pretty later on. I picked up a tip a few years ago to use onions with the skin (I searched the web just now to try and give proper credit, but have no idea where this came from originally,) which helps impart a beautiful golden color. At the very end, use a strainer or chinois, with cheesecloth if you want a totally clear broth, but this is unnecessary in my opinion. I'm too frugal for this next tip, but I've seen recipes that discard everything used to make the broth after it is strained and add in new veggies, if desired. I was going to take a picture of the straining process, but the collection of bones and mushed veggies was wholly unappetizing.

Tip #3 - while the soup needs to cook on the stove for hours, the chicken meat will definitely be over-cooked if it remains in the pot that long. But, the bones need to remain in for hours in order to give up their goodness to create a flavorful broth. Solution - after an hour or so, remove the meat from the bones, set aside, and return the bones to the pot.

Tip #4 - if you are making chicken noodle soup, boil the noodles in a separate pot and add the cooked noodles in at the end. Putting uncooked noodles in the soup pot uses up good broth.

Chicken Soup
Inspired by mom and grandma

2-3 pounds of chicken, with lots of bones
2-3 large carrots, sliced in 1" rounds
2-3 stalks celery, cut in 3" sections
1 onion, cut in half
1-2 parsnips, cut in 3" sections
1 bunch dill
1 bunch parsley
salt (be generous) & pepper

Throw everything in the pot and add enough water to cover. Place a lid on the pot and simmer; try to avoid a rapid boil, as this will encourage scum to form on the surface. After an hour take the chicken pieces out, remove the meat and set aside, and return bones to the pot. Taste broth and add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Continue to simmer, covered, for another 2-3 hours.

When soup is done, remove carrots and set aside with chicken meat. You can also retrieve celery and parsnip, if desired. Pour all contents of the pot through a strainer or chinois (with cheesecloth, if desired.) Return broth to the pot, add in chicken meat and carrots. Serve with egg noodles (boiled in a separate pot) or matzoh balls.

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