Friday, September 18, 2009

Chicken Soup

I've just finished cooking my traditional chicken soup and thought I'd share the recipe. This comes down from my mother's mother, with adaptations at each generation. My mother added the sweet potato and I incorporated some of the principles of stock making I picked up in my recreational French cooking series. My sister made her version of this soup and my sister-in-law Karen also makes a version. I came along after my grandmother stopped cooking, so I only knew my mother's. In her honor, I'll call it Evie's Chicken Soup.

I'm making the soup today for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, but I make it during the winter whenever one of has has a bad cold. You can serve it with the traditional matzoh balls (**my secret below the recipe) or with noodles. With an extra step, you can use the leftovers where stock is called for in a recipe. This is a pretty low salt recipe, so add salt to your taste. My cousin Scott used to infuriate my mother by adding salt to his bowl of soup (before tasting!) at every holiday dinner.

Evie's Chicken Soup

(serves 8 - 12)

Large cut up chicken or parts - about 5 pounds ( I like to use kosher chicken for this as it's been salted and soaked)

1 sweet potato, peeled and left whole

1 medium to large onion, peeled and left whole

4 -6 carrots, depending on their size, peeled and cut into two approximately equal lengths

4 stalks celery, trimmed and cleaned and halved as with the carrots

1 parsnip, peeled and trimmed

1 "Jewish Bouquet Garni" - I use a large handful of parsley (stems and all), dill and 10 - 12 black peppercorns wrapped up in muslin and tied with kitchen string. Feel free to substitute ground pepper. You can also omit the muslin and string and drop the dill and parsley right into the soup still tied up in the rubberband, but you will have bits of the herbs floating in the soup that way. I prefer a clearer soup.

1 - 2 Telma brand chicken stock cubes - optional. You can find these in the kosher section of many grocery stores and at kosher markets. I use one or two if the broth seems weak when I taste it. They are very high in sodium and have some MSG so I prefer to omit them. If you have a flavorful chicken you won't miss them. If you decide to use the cubes, do not add salt until the tasting stage!!!

1. Get out a large stock pot. After years of making soup right up to the edge of my pot, I finally bought myself a 16 qt. pot. Much easier! Put the chicken pieces in the pot, leaving out any livers, hearts, etc. Cover with water by a couple of inches. Today, with just under 5 pounds of chicken, my water line after the pieces were covered came up to 7 quarts.

2. Put the pot on a burner set to high and bring to a rolling boil. After the water has been boiling for about 5 - 10 minutes, skim off the foam and grey-brown goo that floats to the top. This sounds gross, but is a crucial step.

3. Lower the burner slightly and keep the chicken and water at a slow boil for about 30 minutes.

4. Once the water is mostly clear, add all the other ingredients to the pot. Bring back to a boil, then lower the burner to maintain the contents of the pot at a simmer. Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape.

5. Simmer for about 1 hour.

6. Stir the contents of the pot and skim off any obvious bits of fat. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Remove the chicken pieces to a bowl and reserve for another use - chicken salad, maybe?

8. Remove the parsnip and sweet potato and eat (or save for someone else). If you like onion, break up the onion into smaller pieces and leave in the soup. It should just about fall apart. Remove the herbs or "bouquet garni."

9. The soup is ready to serve like this, however, if you've made it a day ahead you have an opportunity to skim off the layer of fat that will rise up and solidify when you refrigerate the soup. If you would like a fancier presentation, strain the soup of all the cooked out vegetables and put just the broth back into the pot (use a strainer over another pot or bowl - do not just pour it over a colander like you are dumping pasta. I have done that - duh. Press down on the strained out vegetables to get out all the broth and flavor). You can add new, fresh carrots and celery to the broth and cook it for another 20 minutes or so before serving. This method also provides a clearer broth if you want to use it for stock.

L'shanah Tovah!

**Matzoh balls: After years of using a hand beater to make stiff peaks out of the egg whites for my mother to use in the matzoh balls, I now use a mix. They come out great.


  1. Alpha 888-This sounds great; I just made chicken soup, and never thought of sweet potatoes or parsnips...I did add chopped onion, and seems fine. Also added 1/4 white wine. Thanks will try yours next.

  2. Anne - I'm sure the chopped onion was great. To me, onion in any form, in most dishes is a plus. I think chopped, the onion will release its flavor more quickly.