So much has been written about Chicken Soup that little more than a simple reminder of its healing properties along with a delicious recipe may be all that are necessary. I’ve refined this recipe over many years, and it surely speaks for itself especially when prepared with homemade stock. With enough bones in the stock, the long simmering gives the soup a richness, depth of flavor and gentleness that communicates comfort and love.
Should you do a Google search for the science behind chicken soup, not surprisingly you will find that there is science behind its ability to soothe and heal that goes beyond the love with which it is prepared. My wise and sensible acupuncturist today reinforced the health benefits of chicken soup with the comment “it’s good for what ails you.”
Two keys for preparing Chicken Soup and Chicken Stock
1) Prepare Chicken Stock separately from the Chicken Soup
Vegetables for stock are roughly chopped into large chunks so they can withstand the long cooking time without dissolving into mush. These veggies enrich the stock with all of their flavor and nutrients and are best discarded after the stock is strained. Then, when making the soup, use fresh veggies for the best flavor and texture.
2) The fat skimmed from the top of chilled Chicken Stock is usable
Although most recipes tell you to discard the flavorful fat or “schmaltz” skimmed from the top of your homemade chicken stock, not so if you use organically raised chickens in preparing the stock. Schmaltz is very flavorful and is perfect for sautéing the veggies for the soup and adding an additional layer of chicken flavor.
“Troubles are easier to take with soup than without.”
An old Yiddish saying
May this recipe for Chicken Soup serve you and your friends and family well—easing your troubles and providing comfort and healing for body, mind and soul.
Prepare your homemade chicken stock at least 24 hours before you want to prepare your soup. Of course you can also make this recipe using prepared chicken broth or bouillon cubes or concentrate—if you do so, use only a pinch of salt when sautéing the veggies.
Although this recipe calls for julienne cut vegetables and shredded chicken, feel free to dice the veggies and chicken instead for a more traditional look.
9 cups homemade, unsalted chicken stock (recipe below)
2 cups onion, thinly sliced pole-to-pole
2 cups carrots, julienne cut
2 cups celery, julienne cut
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons sea salt
Half a dozen twists freshly ground pepper
2½ cups potatoes, ½-inch dice (stored in water to keep from browning)
1½ tablespoons fat skimmed from the chicken stock OR olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs dried thyme OR 3 sprigs fresh thyme
2½ cups cooked, shredded chicken
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped celery leaves
Place either the skimmed chicken fat or the oil in the bottom of a large soup pot. Stir in the onion, cover the pot and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent and beginning to color.
Drain the potatoes and add them to the pot along with the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
Add the unsalted chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer the soup for 15 minutes.
Stir in the shredded chicken. After one minute adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley and celery leaves.
Homemade Chicken Stock
I used to use a whole chicken but realized that this was just too much chicken for us. By using the parts, there is just the right amount. As you are able, use parts from organic chickens. Prepare your stock at least the day before you want to use it in order to chill it sufficiently to easily skim the fat that rises to the top. Stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Makes about 9 cups of strained stock
5 pounds assorted organic chicken parts, i.e., wings, backs, necks, thighs
3 large carrots, roughly chopped (unpeeled if organic)
1 large onion, unpeeled and roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
6 parsley stems
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon peppercorns
2 sprigs dried or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
Rinse the chicken and remove and discard as much fat and skin as possible. Place the chicken parts in a large soup pot. Add 16 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer the stock, skimming the foam occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through about 35 minutes.
(Note: be sure to use bleach water –1½ teaspoons bleach to 2 quarts of water—to clean your sink, cutting boards, counters and everything else that may have come into contact with the raw chicken.)
Remove the chicken parts and set them aside to cool. Wearing gloves remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Return the bones to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the stock, for 2 hours.
Strain the stock through a fine strainer, pressing out as much liquid from the solids as possible. Discard all solids. Refrigerate the stock for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.