11 - Chicken Soup


I've been cooking lots of chicken soup these days. I wrote up this recipe when I was directing a squad of soup makers for the sholem seder—-soup for 300!! Now I tend to make it as medicine—for myself when I think I might be edging towards a cold, and more recently for a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy and other onerous medical procedures.

Although I can't swear to its exact origins here is the recipe I invariably use:

Use a three or four pound chicken, with some extra necks, bones and giblets (not livers!!) if you happen to have them. (Most especially recommended are chicken feet, which you can get at the big Asian or Mexican supermarkets—and also, at Whole Foods, which oddly enough doesn’t usually have giblets!)
In the days when I bought and butchered whole chickens, I always had a collection of bones and bits in the freezer, I used them, but nowadays I have to buy all extra parts.

Cover whatever chicken you’re using with water, and bring to a boil.  When it reaches a full boil, it is likely that an ugly scum will rise to the top of the pot.  Just scoop it up and toss it, then partially cover and lower to gentle simmer. After about an hour add the vegetables--you can cut the onions in quarters--peeled or not--depending on the size of your pot you can decide whether or not to cut up the vegetables:

2-3 stalks celery with leaves
1 large onion
1 parsnip peeled
3-4 carrots peeled
A good handful of parsley
Another handful of fresh dill.
Salt and pepper to taste

Continue to simmer for another two (or even three) hours, partially covered.  Cool, then strain. If you want, you can put the carrots back, as well as the de-boned meat, but you could also keep the chicken for separate use. Except for the giblets and necks, everything else could happily be tossed. (If you use a whole chicken, you could try to salvage the meat by removing it after about an hour or so when it is still edible, throwing the bones back into the soup)

When cool, refrigerate. The fat will congeal on the top. Remove it.

And—an alert for the slightly squeamish types who might have decided that it was o.k. to cook and eat chickens that spent their short lives running more or less free and happy--you might get a pang or two at the sight of those chicken feet bobbing about in your broth--five toes, each with a nail of sorts--might be too much of a reminder of the ancestry we share with our avian friends. Luckily there's next to no meat on those feet, so you can just about toss them with your eyes closed. Good luck.

And, if you're making this for Passover, here's my recipe for matzoh balls.

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