Are you feeling pretty good after baking the challah? You should, that was a big one to tackle. I hope you have some confidence because now we are going to take on part two of the Jewish Cooking Trifecta…chicken soup.
Chicken soup is the dish that my husband and all of his friends call “Jewish Penicillin.” I can almost guarantee that your sweetie has some sort of memory attached to this dish and if you can learn to make a darn tasty one, oof, you are in my friend!
My chance to tackle it came when we were going to a Seder hosted by two of our closest friends. The wife wrote and said “You guys are in charge in of the Jewish penicillin, AKA chicken soup” (see, told you they called it that). When my husband read that, he actually looked frightened. This is a high profile dish in the meal and one everyone has opinions on. That was amplified by her next line “The chicken soup is my husband’s grandmother’s recipe and has been in the family for at least 4 generations.” Woah, no pressure there!
We made it, it was delicious, and we have followed this recipe ever since. What does this mean for you? It means that you have the recipe for an absolutely kicking, time tested soup that will wow anyone who tries it! Also, it has a secret ingredient and who doesn’t love a recipe with a secret ingredient!
Now, just two warnings. First, this soup will take you about three hours to make from start to finish. A lot of that is time when it is just cooking away on the stove so you can do other things, but don’t plan to leave the house.
Second, chicken soup is not for the faint at heart. You will have to dismantle a chicken, and that is a slimy business, but trust me it will be worth it! If you bring this soup to a big family dinner, or when your honey is sick, it will be a for sure winner.
Oh, just a side note, I did say trifecta and I mean it. This soup is usually accompanied by matza balls, which in my opinion is the only other high stress, high profile dish that I have had to learn to make so far. Yes, I will show you my favorite recipe for those…but not today. I have to do something to keep you coming back!
With special thanks to my best friend’s husband’s Grandmother!
Ok, first things first, you are going to need a REALLY BIG POT. I’m serious, this thing has to hold at least twelve cups of water plus an entire chicken and veggies. You can get them pretty cheap and a lot of times with extras like a spaghetti strainer. Invest, it will be worth it. We tried to make it the first time in a regular pot and now have the scorch marks on the wall to prove why that was a bad idea!
10-12 cups of water
1 chicken in quarters with neck and gizzards
4-5 large carrots
3 large stalks of celery
1 large whole onion
An entire bunch of fresh dill
An entire bunch of fresh curly parsley
1 parsnip (the secret ingredient!)
Salt and pepper
2 cutting boards
1. First you want to boil your water. Place 10-12 cups in your very large pot and get that going. While it is starting to boil you can cut up your carrots and celery. Just slice them into rounds (well, I guess the celery is more like half moons) and set aside. You can also peel your onion and cut a few slits in the top, please don’t take it apart completely, and peel your parsnip.
2. If you have not quartered your chicken, you will want to do that now. I will admit, I am not very good at taking apart a chicken and I leave the bulk of it to my husband. If you need inspiration, you can watch Julie and Julia, but if you want instruction I’d look online. There are lots of videos and other “How To” sites that can get you started. For this soup you are going to want EVERYTHING and that includes the bag of bits that they stick inside.
3. Once the water is boiling put your chicken inside (yup, everything!) and make sure that it is totally submerged in the water. Cover the pot, you may have to vent it a little, and get it back to a simmer. Let this go for 30 minutes. You will want to check on it every now and then and skim off any fat that rises to the surface of the pot.
4. After 30 minutes plunk in the onion, carrots and celery. Bring the water back to a full boil this time and leave it along for 45 minutes. Your house will be starting to smell DELICIOUS at this point by the way.
5. The next step is to add the dill, parsley and the parsnip. You don’t want to cut up the herbs, just take the whole bunch and throw them in the pot. I usually cut the parsnip into big chunks before I throw that in as well. At this point you should give it a taste and add any salt and pepper that you think it needs.
6. Cover up the pot and let it cook for another 30 minutes.
7. Now, I have to quote directly from my friend’s recipe because this is the most amazing line of direction I have ever been given for cooking. “The soup should now begin to look, smell and taste like chicken soup. If it doesn’t, allow it to cook longer.” Seriously, that is what it says, isn’t that awesome? It makes sense though, after 30 minutes give it a taste and if you think it needs a little more time…give it some more time. Ours is usually done after the 30 minutes though.
8. Let the soup cool a little and then strain out everything. That’s right, all of the carrots, celery, chicken bits, herbs and parsnip have to come out. You’ll notice the onion has completely fallen apart, weird huh?
This is an important step because now you have a decision to make. In some families “clean soup” is the preferred version. This means that it is just the delicious broth without any stuff in it. If that is the case, well, then you have some very tender chicken to make another recipe with.
For families that like “chicken in a pot type soup” (quoting again) you can shred the chicken off the bone and add it back in along with the carrots. Be careful not to get the herbs, bones or parsnip in there as it wouldn’t taste very good.
Hooray! You are done! Now serve yourself up a big bowl and enjoy. You can also pat yourself on the back because you are 2/3 of the way towards being the most surprising shiksa ever. We’ll cover matza balls soon and get you all the way there.