Chicken soup is the classic cold weather, have a cold, need healing, always make you feel better, delicious and never fail soup. What else do I need to say?
The trick is making the soup rich, deep in flavor, clear in appearance, and SIMPLE. Add the little fun things, like barley, noodles, matzoh balls, kale, and so on later, after the soup is done. I like my chicken soup to be basic (in the beginning) and act as a platform, or canvas, for finishing the masterpiece.
The base for chicken soup is chicken stock. Chicken stock is 100% worth the effort. Whether it’s for reducing, freezing and using in other recipes, making soup, or just utilizing leftover bits of things in your fridge, chicken stock is well worth the effort. And for exceptional chicken soup, it’s necessary.
For the stock (ie the soup) don’t use the traditional ‘boil a whole chicken’ method! You need chicken bones…. high in gelatin, collagen, and full of flavor. The bones are where the flavor lives. This stock produces a soup rich and clear enough, it can almost be used for consomme (http://www.gastronomersguide.com/2010/11/chicken-consomme.html).
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours
Yield: 1 1/2 gallons
For the stock:
5 lb whole chicken wings
5 lb chicken feet (or another 5 lb chicken wings)
4 carrots, scrubbed, not peeled, cut in half
3 ribs celery, cut in half
2 large yellow onions, peeling, cut in half
2 leeks, white part only, sliced in half and washed
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
2 tbsp peppercorns
3 bay leaves
For the Soup:
7 carrots, peeled, cut into oblique or medium dice
3 ribs celery, med dice
1 large yellow onion, small dice
4 sprigs thyme, fine chop
2 tbsp sugar
cracked black pepper
1 tbsp dry oregano
For the stock:
Place the chicken pieces in a stock part and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and drain. Rinse the chicken under cold water. This process removes the impurities and fat from the chicken. Clean the pot.
Return the blanched chicken to the pot, add the herbs, spices and vegetables and cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 3 1/2 hours. Note: simmering, in this instance, means the occasional bubble. You want to almost steep the chicken, NEVER boil.
Using a ladle, remove the fat from the top. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and reserve. The stock is now compete. The wings bones will have no usable meat and all the flavor from the vegetables will be in the stock. Discard.
For the soup:
In another (or the same) heavy bottom stock pot, add about 2 tbsp of the oil and begin cooking the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and cook until fragrant and the onions are translucent. This step begins to force flavor into the vegetables and remove the ‘raw’ vegetable taste from your soup. Add the stock and bring back up to temp. Season liberally with salt and lots of pepper, add the sugar, oregano and thyme. Taste it. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Your basic soup is now complete.
Now is the time to add other ‘things’ to your soup. Add potatoes, dumplings, noodles, barley, dill, matzoh balls, chard, kale, raviolis, meatballs, and so on. Rest assured, your ‘canvas’, your basic soup is already rich and deep in flavor. Whatever else you add will only enhance it, make it better, and make it ‘yours’.