Chicken Soup 101
If you've never made homemade chicken soup, then you are really missing out in life.
a.k.a. "Jewish Penicillin".
A good chicken boiled in a pot with fat and vegetables will surely cure that cold or flu.
You can make the stock and save the shredded chicken for other meals (I usually get 3 different meals from the chicken, including the soup).
I love having freezers full of stock and soup for the lean winter months.
It's like money in the bank.
If you've ever made stock, you know that it comes out differently every time.
Sometimes I get a deep, dark brown stock and it's alarming, however, it always tastes good in the end.
Sometimes I get a big pot of gelatinous mess after it's in the fridge, and that's also scary. But once I simmer it down, it's all good again.
Chickens are all different. I like a kosher bird because it tastes saltier to me and is much leaner than big fatty commercial chickens.
A farm raised organic bird is also a good choice. It hopefully had a better life before it was beheaded and plucked. :)
This recipe is from Domenica Marchetti's Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy book, and I like her version the best so far, because she studs her onions with whole cloves and uses fennel stalks, which adds a great flavor.
Domenica recommends adding salt at the very end of cooking (the last half hour), so you don't have an overly salt soup.
Domenica's Chicken Stock:
1 whole 4-5 lb. chicken (or a chicken cut up that equals 5 lbs.)
2 onions, quartered
2 whole cloves
stalks & fronds of a fennel bulb (save the bulb for another time)
2 pieces of celery, cut into 2" pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
1 garlic clove, smashed
tbsp of whole black peppercorns
few sprigs of fresh thyme and fresh parsley
Take 2 of the onion quarters and stud them with the whole cloves.
Place the chicken in the biggest stock pot you can find, surrounding the vegetables & herbs all around and on top of it, to fit in snugly.
Pour in cold water all around and 2" above the chicken to cover.
Bring to a rapid boil and turn down to a simmer.
Simmer, uncovered for 3 to 4 hours, depending on how rich you like your broth.
During the last half hour of simmering, season your stock with salt.
I use about 3/4 tsp of Morton's salt, but you may like more or less, so taste and gradually add up to a tsp of salt to flavor.
Now, I take a slotted spoon and transfer all the chicken bones, skin, meat and carcass to a large bowl to cool. I get as much as I can out of the pot.
Now here's the hard part:
Make sure you have a strong person to lift the heavy pot and strain the solids (all the soft vegetables and mess) thru a sieve into another soup pot.
This is my husband's job.
I press the vegetables and solids thru the sieve/strainer and extract more goodness into the broth. Discard the bones, vegetables and whatever is left in the strainer.
Now you should have a pot with just clear broth ready to cool.
This will be your vehicle to use in other soups, stews and anything that calls for chicken stock.
Cool the broth for a few hours in the fridge or in the garage (like I do), and you will get a nice layer of fat.
Skim the lovely layer of fat off and dispose before proceeding.
Once the chicken in the bowl is cool enough to handle, shred the meat from the carcass, and discard the fat and bones. This is my favorite part!
You should have enough meat for 3 meals (including chicken soup).
For Chicken Soup:
the entire pot of homemade broth that you just made
1/3 of the shredded chicken
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1/2 cup of small dried pasta of your choice
Bring the cooled and prepared stock to a boil on the stove and add in the newly sliced carrots, celery and pasta.
Cook at least 12 minutes so your pasta and carrots get soft.
Ladle into bowls and serve.
Some people like fresh dill in the soup, but I didn't have any.
Makes enough for 5 bowls of delicious soup.
Though it's a long process, it's so worth it. It's healthier than canned soup, and you feel good eating it. Sort of like baking bread.
Enjoy & stay healthy.