Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chicken Soup for the way Chicken Soup for the Stomach!

I think the questions I get most often are in regard to Chicken Soup. Everyone wants to know how to make a good chicken soup...for some reason they think there is some wild mystique to it, when in all probability it is one of the easiest things to make (time consuming yes) but when you make a pot of soup, you get at least two, if not three meals out of it. In these difficult economic times, making a pot of soup is not only healthy (you have a protein, vegetables and if you add pasta or rice, a starch) but quite economical. What kid doesn't like chicken noodle soup!

I always make a 16-quart pot of soup and freeze it. You always need chicken soup, it cures all that ails you, mentally and physically, it is the number one comfort food, and it really does help that cold get better quicker.

You don't need much to make a pot of soup - a big pot, some water, salt, pepper, an onion, celery, carrots, some bay leaves, and a chicken. I always use a Purdue Oven Stuffer/Roaster for my soup except of course today, because yesterday when they announce it was going to be a blizzard to end all blizzards, people flocked to the stores like they would never be able to buy food again...

There was barely a piece of chicken to be had, and no oven/stuffer roasters. There were one or two anorexic chickens that looked worse than some of the actresses on the front page of the Enquirer, when they are running their "is she or isn't she" anorexic issues. So, today I opted for a few whole chicken breasts (3 or 4, I can't remember) but if you can get a whole chicken, that's the way to go.

Note: This is the same soup you will use for Matzoh Ball Soup. You will eliminate the pasta and add the matzoh balls. I will post that recipe as we get closer to Passover.

Elise Feiner

1 Purdue® Oven Stuffer Roaster
1-2 large onions, peeled and left whole
2 bags mini baby carrots or one bag of regular carrots, washed, peeled and cut in thirds
5 stalks celery, washed; cut off loose top leaves and cut in half
2-3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Cold water

Open the package of chicken and remove all the gizzards and other goodies from both ends of the chicken. Wash under cold running water. Fill a very large stockpot (16-24 quart) ¾ of the way full with cold water. Add the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste. Bring soup to a boil and them lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 3 to 4 hours. Remove onions and celery and discard. MAKE SURE YOU REMOVE BAY LEAVES and discard them. Remove the chicken to a large platter and let it cool. Remove all the skin and all the bones and discard. Shred the chicken, and set it aside. Let the soup cool. Remove all the carrots from the soup and place in a small bowl. Strain the remainder of the chicken broth through a large strainer into another pot or container. Wash the stockpot out. Return the strained soup back to the pot. After you remove the chicken and all the vegetable, you will see that the fluid level has dropped considerably. The broth that is left is very concentrated at this point. You can now add about 3 to 4 cups of water back into the pot, but add this one cup at a time being careful not to dilute the soup too much. You will probably have to reseason the soup with salt and pepper at this point. Take the carrots that you set aside, and take about 1 cup of the broth and place it into a blender, and liquefy it. Add this mix back to the soup. It will give your soup a beautiful golden color. You can also do this by leaving the carrots right in the pot using an immersion blender if you have one. If you are using the soup for Matzoh Ball Soup, add the shredded chicken back into the broth. If you want to use it for a soup for dinner with a pasta or rice, add the chicken back in. If you are using it for soup a la Sandella (see index), add very little chicken back to the soup, and make chicken salad with the rest. If you are making it with pasta for a first course or light supper or lunch, boil the pasta of your choice in salted water, but usually very small pasta is used (orzo, stars, alphabets, small shells, rings, etc.) Drain well and then add pasta to the soup. Serves 12 to 16.

Here is what you will need for the soup:

Peel your onions and leave them whole (this onion was
huge, so I only used one today

Wash the celery (I use the hearts, but you can
use regular celery and leave the leafy part on)
This is why...

Leave the celery whole but

Cut off wide part at the base

and cut off a thin slice from the top

Wash the chicken - remove any blood, obvious fat, etc.
Most chickens are very clean today
but they still need to be rinsed.
If you are a novice cook, and you
are using a whole chicken,
make sure you check all the cavities and
remove any of the gizzards, organs, etc.
Let cold water run through one
end of the chicken to the other

Rinse the carrots under cold water

Fill a large pot with cold water (about 3/4 full)

Add the chicken

The onion(s)

The celery

The carrots (I like baby carrots, but if you feel like peeling and
slicing use whole carrots and go for it

The bay leaves

Salt (about a handful in a pot this big (that's about 2 tablespoonful)

and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Give everything a quick stir

Turn on the gas of course - I start it on high

Bring to a boil - this will take about 20 minutes on a pot this size

The soup will develop a foam on it (most soups do)

Just skim the soup with a strainer or spoon to remove

I use a very fine mesh strainer for this

Lower to a simmer and let simmer for about 2-3 hours -
this is why I like the Purdue Chickens
usually when the timer pops up, the soup is good to go...

Now comes the time consuming part...

Remove the onions, celery, and bay leaves and discard - obviously if you like celery, keep in in the soup. I would suggest that if you are going to keep the celery in, you may want to slice it as opposed to leaving it whole.

Remove the chicken from the soup - If you are using a whole chicken, it may fall apart, not to worry, you will be straining the soup anyway and getting out anything that doesn't belong there.

Notice how the level of the liquid has dropped considerably

Remove the carrots, place them in a strainer and

rinse them off because sometimes

some gunk from the chicken sticks to the carrots,

cut the carrots, then and set them aside

At this point you have a decision to make, if you like the color of your soup (it should be a golden color) just slice your carrots into small pieces to add back into the soup later

I usually put some of the carrots aside
and take a few cups of soup out
of the pot and let it cool as well.
When the soup cools,
I put the carrots and the cooled soup into a
blender and puree the carrots with the soup.
Then, after the soup in strained,
add the puree back in. It gives the soup a
beautiful color. If your family doesn't like
the carrots in the soup, add them all to the broth,
and blend it and put it in the soup,
this way they will get their veggies and not know it -oh,
I sound like Jessica Seinfeld...don't sue me!!!

Now you have two options - you need another pot
so you can strain the soup into a clean pot
or you can place a piece of cheesecloth
across another pot and pour the soup
over the cheesecloth to strain it.
I know this sounds like a lot of work,
but it is so worth it. Nothing is as
delicious as home made chicken soup.

You can see some of the gunk that the strainer has caught
this is why you must strain the soup

Wash out your original pot, and pour the
strained soup back into it

Once your chicken has cooled,

shred or cube your chicken

and set it aside to put back in the soup in a few minutes

Now that your soup is strained, you will notice that there is not a huge amount of broth because the vegetables and chicken take up a lot of room in the pot. Your stock is very concentrated - you can safely add about 3 water glasses full of tap water to your soup to dilute it a little. Check for salt and pepper after doing this.

Add back the carrots, and the chicken to the broth

Now, you can do anything you want with this soup -
add some chopped spinach to it, add rice,
add pasta, add some eggs, make some
matzoh balls (another post for another day)
whatever you like

You can let it cool and refrigerate it and let the
fat solidify and remove it before serving
but we like to eat it the first night it's made.
I remove all the fat on the next serving of the soup

When my children were young,
I loved to give them soup like this.
I would boil some pasta, and they would
have a complete meal, carbohydrates, veggies,
protein, and in my house, 10 pounds of
grating cheese to the soup
gave them dairy products too.

Tonight, I an adding pasta (acini de pepi)
to the soup. I never cook my pasta
in the soup for several reasons...
it makes the soup starchy for one thing
and it absorbs so much of the broth,
your soup can become dry.

Instead, put up a pot of water
Add some salt
When it comes to a boil,
throw in your pasta (I made a pound)

Stir frequently, especially if you are using
small pasta as they tend to stick
to the bottom

of the pot

Let it cook to the desired doneness
(I like it cooked and not al dente otherwise
you run into the absorption problem again)
You can see how much water it has already absorbed

Drain the pasta

Add it back to the same pot it was cooked in

Now add your soup to the pasta
don't add your pasta to the soup pot

This is important for several reasons -
if you add the pasta to the soup pot,
you can't use it for anything else.
If you add it to the pot,
your pasta will be lost in all that broth.
The last thing is, that even though the pasta
is cooked, it will still absorb some of the broth.
When it sits for awhile and you add broth,
it will not absorb it (this way you can refrigerate
the leftovers from this meal and still
have a second meal, and then you can freeze the
remaining soup and use it for a third
meal with something different the next time)

Ladle out the soup and enjoy
your insides will be cozy :)

We love grating cheese on our soup in this house, so if you want, add a little cheese and enjoy!

I portioned off 6 (2 cup) containers after we were through with dinner to freeze for Steven while he is studying for the Bar exam. Now, all he has to do is thaw and heat and he had a meal when he adds a sandwich. In addition, I froze a large (about 12 cup container) for another meal.
This is a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you have small children.

Chicken Soup on Foodista


  1. Delicious! What a great recipe! Hope you can come over and share your fantastic soup over at - the cooking encyclopedia everyone can edit. Would also love a link to this post from our site.(This will direct Foodista readers to your blog)Here's how you can create inbound links from our site Check it out here. This is a great way for you to build blog traffic and connect with other food lovers! See you there! Thanks!

  2. wow, that is a quite a process! I take a shortcut and just add pieces of roasted chicken and pasta for the last 10 minutes of cooking, so it takes me only about 40 minutes to make the soup - the shorter the better. However, I have to admit, it's not as great as yours, but Edin and I like it :))

  3. Don't be a chicken Jasminka, lol...

    It looks far more complicated than it is, even Lauren has done this on her own. Seriously, it don't matter how you make it, as long as you make it!

    What I like about this is that I make a 16 quart pot and get 3-4 meals out of it. I just made this for Lauren today, and froze 5 containers of soup for her, and we had it for dinner!