As part of my Olympian preparations for Wednesday’s torture (leading up to Thursday’s entirely different torture), I made a big pot of chicken soup over the weekend—clear broths being one of the few things I’ll be allowed to ingest, I thought it would be better to have some high-test homemade stuff on hand. It’s incredibly easy to make, but I don’t often bother since it takes hours and, well, I’m lazy. The canned stuff works fine for me, most of the time. While I’m in training for a day of extreme self-pity, I figured I’d do a little something nice for myself in the meantime.
This is the method I learned at ICE, but I called my mom beforehand and her recipe, the one I grew up on and still savor at all Jewish holidays, is essentially the same—although she tells me she’s stopped skimming in recent years, since it’s just for us family and the skimming doesn’t serve any real purpose except making it pretty and clear. (I realized after the fact that my mom’s recipe usually includes fresh dill, so you might want to consider adding some.)
Once you’ve got the broth, you can use it in practically anything. The classic chicken noodle soup is a no-brainer, and it’s easy to vary that with the addition of soy sauce, ginger, and scallions, say, for a Chinese inflection, or a little chipotle in adobo, avocado, and crisped strips of corn tortillas for a southwestern suggestion. (I’d leave out cilantro, since it’s evil, but if you insist go right ahead.) The night I made the broth, I used it as the base for a quick and inauthentic pasta e fagiole with canned white beans & tomatoes, elbow macaroni, garlic, and herbs. We’ve been grooving on that for two days already. And I’m dying to try to make canja, which is a Brazilian chicken soup with lemon, rice, and mint—but since I’m not allowed to eat any kind of solid food on Wednesday, I’ll hold off on that until next time.
Serves as many as your pot will allow
3 lbs chicken parts, cut up [I used inexpensive chicken backs, $.19/lb at the grocery]
3 carrots, peeled, whole or halved
3 ribs celery, whole or halved, with leaves
1 parsnip, peeled, whole or halved
1 turnip, peeled, whole or halved
1 onion, unpeeled, whole
Bouquet garni with 10 peppercorns, parsley stems, 1 bay leaf, thyme or dill
Put the first 7 ingredients (through bouquet garni) into your largest pot—one with tall sides is best since the liquid will evaporate slower. Cover with cold water by several inches, and set over moderate heat. Bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer.
Skim off any scum that appears for about 10 minutes, or until it is no longer produced. Do not let water boil or scum will become reincorporated into the stock.
[Cats love soup scum. Who knew?]
[Hey whaddya know? In typing this up, I just realized I didn’t follow the instructions properly! It says to put just the chicken in the pot at first, and add the vegetables & bouquet garni after the skimming is complete. I’ve been making it this way for years, apparently incorrectly. Next time I’ll have to try that—if you do, let me know how it turns out.]
Simmer 4+ hours. If it looks like you’re losing too much liquid, go ahead and add a little more if it’s during the first half of the process—I did, and it turned out fine. Add salt at the very end, otherwise as it boils down it could condense and become too salty.
[It ain’t pretty, but it sure is tasty!]
Pour stock into a strainer, mashing down solids to get out all the juices. [I didn’t mash very hard, since one of my favorite comfort foods is the limp, overcooked mix of vegetables straight from the soup pot.]
[A pot of gold, I tell ya]
Degrease the stock—I’ve used all of these methods at various times and all work well:
• Chill, then discard the fat that congeals on top
• Put in a degreasing cup and let it sit until fat floats to the top. Pour it out from the bottom, being careful not to let the grease through the spout.
• Lower strips of paper towel onto surface of slightly cooled stock; grease will coat paper and turn it translucent. Continue with fresh strips until grease is gone.
This will hold in the fridge for 2-3 days (re-boil it if you’re going to hold it longer, or it will turn sour), or almost indefinitely in the freezer.