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Lee's Kitchen: A simple chicken soup that really soothes the soul

Sometimes you make something so easy, and so often, you assume everyone does it, too. That is me with chicken soup.

I do buy those quart-sized cartons of chicken soup for the pantry. Sometimes it is low-sodium (which is often a little more expensive) or low-fat (even if we are not sure how low fat is really low). But my mother never bought canned soup, primarily because she only made two kinds of soup: chicken soup from scratch or cabbage soup, made with water.

The smell of the house when she made cabbage soup made me gag.

I grew up drinking chicken soup. It was one my mother made regularly. She probably added salt and she did not skim up the fat. It was a long time ago and I don’t remember anyone talking about low-salt or low-fat diets, and we didn’t even know the word “cholesterol.”

In our house we drank it “neat,” as if it were scotch. My father and I fought over the warm, leftover carrots. My mother made chicken sandwiches for us the next few days. It was pretty bland, but the only herbs in our kitchen were salt, pepper and paprika.

I began making chicken soup when I married my husband. Like my mother, I use a fat 3½-pound chicken.

The ingredients are simple. I added more carrots because I love the leftover carrots cold, still tasting like chicken soup. I add a little salt but more pepper, because I love pepper.

My husband thought the leftover chicken was bland; of course it was, all the flavor was in the soup. But I like chicken sandwiches with mayonnaise, which is a bit salty. I also make chicken salad with onions, celery, dried mustard and garlic salt. I also make enchiladas or tacos with the left-over chicken.

The soup is bland, too. All it tastes like is chicken soup. But here’s the thing: The soup becomes the stock or broth for all the other soups you make. Taste that homemade soup; then taste the stock from that can or carton. Isn’t that amazing?

So make this soup. I still eat it “neat.” But you can add chopped chicken to it, or add rice or noodles or more fresh vegetables. The ones you cooked the chicken with are dreary; dump them out, unless your pets like it with their kibble. I put the soup through a sieve twice. Then I freeze it for all the soups, stews, braises or for the liquid in your Instant Pot.

 

Chicken Soup and Broth

adapted from “Italian Holiday Cooking” by Michele Scicolone (William Morrow, New York, 2001)

Serves 6 to 8; makes about 3 quarts of broth

 

1 chicken (about 3½ pounds; a big one is okay if your pot holds it)

1 pound chicken legs and thighs

4 to 6 medium carrots, cut into big chunks

2 celery ribs, cut into big chunks

2 onions, peeled and quartered

6 sprigs flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

6 to 10 peppercorns

salt to taste (I begin tasting and salting about 1 hour before the soup is done)

 

Remove the liver and gizzards for another use. Rinse chicken and chicken parts well. Place in stock pot at least large enough to hold 6 quarts of liquid. Add 4 quarts (16 cups) cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and cook for 30 to 60 minutes, skimming off the foam and any fat that rises to the surface.

Add vegetables, parsley, peppercorns and a little salt. Cook for 2 hours. (If you’ve skimmed off the foam during the first part of the cooking, you’ll hardly have to pay attention during this 2-hour period.) Let cool slightly.

Strain broth. Remove chicken from bones, discarding skin and bones. Pour the soup into a sieve twice. If you are serving the broth as soup, return to rinsed pot and add chicken, sliced fresh carrots, celery and onion and simmer until tender. If you only need the broth, reserve the chicken meat for another use.

Let soup or broth cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate for up to three days. When ready to proceed, scrape fat off surface if you like. I, however, don’t. Soup can be frozen for up to three months.

 

On the Side

I don't snack. I like meals. Of course, anything can be a meal. I am not proud of this, but sometimes I will make cook-top chocolate pudding and call it a meal. I do that very rarely, though.

But once, at a friend's house, she put a bowl of Dot's Pretzels on the counter. Best snack I ever had. She said it is very hard to find, so I ordered four bags on Amazon, gave three away (one to my friend) and snacked on the rest.

They are pretzel sticks. They are very salty. They are addictive. Around 16 Dots are enough for me, so they cost 130 calories and 16 percent of a suggested amount of sodium per day.

I kept them up on a high shelf and didn't get it down until I saw that Johnson's Ace Hardware in Groton sells them. So does Target and Walmart.

 

Lee White lives in Groton. She can be reached at leeawhite@aol.com.

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