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Classic Chicken Soup

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

This recipe is a go-to base for everything from noodles to matzo balls.

Classic Chicken Soup
Toss the whole chicken in the pot. After a couple of hours cooking it will fall apart and off the bone.

Chicken soup should be balanced in flavor and rich in color, not at all watery on the tongue or to the eyes. No one ingredient should be identifiable. All the vegetables and meat should cook together to form a new, singular taste all its own. This recipe calls for the the onion skins to go in the pot, which does a lot for the color of the soup. If you are up for it, add a few chicken feet to the pot for a truly exceptional flavor. You don't have to eat either of these things! Just give it a try to cook the soup with them.

Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; peeler; stockpot; tongs or slotted spoon; china cap, chinois, or strainer (with cheesecloth)

Ingredients: 1, 4-pound chicken

6 chicken feet or one dozen chicken wings water to cover 2 onions, washed and sliced in quarters with skins on 2 tablespoons salt 2 whole carrots, peeled 2 whole celery stalks, cut in half ½ bunch fresh parsley 1 bunch fresh dill

1. Rinse and clean the chicken thoroughly, inside and out. Discard, or reserve for later use, the heart and liver.

2. Combine the chicken and the onions in a large stockpot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, for 1½ hours. Skim the soup once it first comes to a simmer to remove any impurities (grey-brown foam on the surface).

3. Add the remaining ingredients except for the dill. Cover and cook over low heat for one more hour.

4. Remove the chicken and vegetables with tongs or a slotted spoon and strain the soup into another stockpot or storage container. Add fresh dill and let the broth stand for 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, reserve the chicken meat and chop vegetables to serve with the soup. Discard the dill and chill the soup, covered, overnight. The fat will come to the top of the soup and will be easy to skim with a spoon.

Makes 8 servings.

Reserve the fat in the refrigerator for cooking as a flavorful alternative to butter or oil, including to make matzo balls instead of vegetable oil. Use the chicken meat for salad. Save vegetables for garnish in the soup, or discard.

Time-Tested Technique

Making the very best chicken soup is a work in progress for a cook. Every time you make chicken soup, it should get a little better. Mastering the technique is within reach if you do it the ILOC way. Rememebr: it's about teechnique, not torture!

Begin with a large stockpot. The flavor comes from the meat and vegetables you put in the soup. You want to pack in as much as possible and cover with water. It is important to cook chicken soup over a low heat for a long time to get the most from the meat and bones. This guarantees the best possible flavor and richer color.

Rinse the chicken carefully. If you’re using a whole bird, ensure that no blood or additional residue ends up in your soup. If you prefer using chicken quarters or eighths, that’s perfectly fine. Some people like to use a bunch of wings and bottoms, since dark meat is a bit fattier and decidedly more flavorful.

Use the skin. Whether you use a whole bird or chicken parts, you must keep the skin on the meat. Without the skin, the soup will not have much depth of flavor or color. Fat always can be skimmed once the soup has been made.

Check the cavity. You may add the neck from an organic bird only, but do not use the heart or liver from any bird for soup, often found sealed in the cavity of a prepackaged chicken.

Balance the vegetables. The essential aromatic vegetables of onions, carrots and celery – officially referred to as mirepoixin the chef world – round out the flavor of the soup. Mirepoix is virtually always 50% onion, 25% carrot, 25% celery. The problem with many chicken soups and stocks is that they often have too much carrot or celery in relation to the onion. Too much carrot makes a soup sweet, even though it may enhance the color. Celery is a flavor that should not be identifiable on its own in meat broth. Make sure you use at least the same amount of onion as you do of carrot and celery combined.

Season the soup at the end. Once the soup has been made, season it with salt and pepper. Any seasoning you add at the beginning weakens by the end of the cooking process. Reseason before you serve the soup.

Jump in Feet First

The secret to exceptional soup: chicken feet. Please do not be discouraged by this seemingly strange and old-fashioned ingredient. It really does make the very best chicken soup! Feet are high in gelatin, which makes for a viscous stock. If you can add half a dozen chicken feet to your soup, it will dramatically strengthen the flavor and color of your broth. Ask your butcher to order some for you.

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