Friday, January 3, 2014

It's as easy as Chicken Soup!

Thanks Pop!
As I write this, the northeast area of the country (where I reside) has been hit by a major snow storm and cold snap. The wind chill factors in at -5 degrees. It's cold. Since the last few winters have been relatively mild, this one seems brutal. This is our third storm, and so far, I have managed to avoid the craziness of the "pre-storm" supermarket by stocking up on items that I know I can survive on without having to wrestle someone for the last loaf of bread. This seems easier to do now then when I had a full family to supply for, including two growing boys who never thought there was enough food in the house.

And to me, nothing says warmth and comfort more than homemade chicken soup. But I will admit that I was surprised this past holiday season at the amount of people who came to my home looking for it as if I held some well kept secret on its preparation! It's chicken soup people! How hard could this be?

As most of you know, I grew up watching my Dad who made homemade soup every Saturday from September to March. As a widower raising young children, he developed cooking skills through the lean years, that took us from Spam, tomato soup with sliced hot dogs (that was as bad as it sounds) to wonderfully rich soups and stews! He learned to cook full meals when it wasn't popular for men to do so. If he were alive today, I could picture him watching the Food Network and taking notes! All that being said, chicken soup was his go-to Saturday fix, which he served with chipsteak sandwiches, pickles and chips.

So, the next time you hear the words "winter storm warning" and you're fighting to navigate a cart down the grocery isle for something canned or boxed, below are the easy steps to creating a large pot of soul and kitchen warming soup. Everyone has their own version, but this is my Dad's...and now mine.

Ingredients for broth: (Using average 6 qt stock pot)
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 3 chopped celery stalks, (include leafy tops)
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 1 can small dice tomatoes
  • 3 or 4 chicken bullion cubes (my dad used salt, I use these instead to punch up flavor while adding needed sodium)
  • 3 tablespoons of parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Water
  • Noodles of your choice. 
  • I start by pulling off the skin of three of the thighs to lessen the fat content. But don't reach for the boneless, skinless thighs, you have to use the bone-in thighs because the bone provides a lot of flavor! 
  • Put the chicken in the bottom of the pot and then toss in all the other ingredients.
  • If using standard 6 qt. stock pot, add about 4 qts. of water (or enough that brings it to about 2" from the top.)
  • Bring to soft boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for two hours with lid partially on.
  • Taste occasionally and season accordingly. 
  • Separately boil water for noodles. It is best to cook them first before adding to broth so they don't soak up all that fragrant liquid!
  • When the taste tells you it's done, drain the pot into a colander that's been placed inside a large bowl.
  • Lift the chicken, and all ingredients, out of the bowl (This will give you a "clean" broth)
  • Once cooled, pull the meat of the chicken thighs and put back in the broth along with the carrots. Everything else will get tossed. 
  • For the noodles, use the pasta of your choice; Orzo, anci di peppe, pastina, whole or thin noddles. Or rice, if you so desire! It's your soup! 
  • Pour the cleaned broth back into the pot and add noodles slowly. This gives control over how much is needed.
  • Bring back to simmer for another 15 minutes and it is ready!
Now in our family, the Italian part anyway, we add a sprinkling of a good grade of Parmesan cheese (like Locatelli) to each bowl. I actually had a cousin say to me the other day, "if you don't have cheese, I don't want any soup". Maybe it's just us, but it is really, really good!

Once you've mastered a great chicken broth, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and add to so many other types of soups and dishes! Over the holidays I made a recipe for a creamy Chicken Tortilla soup that started with 4 quarts of chicken broth. It was delicious!

There is nothing easier, or better for you, than homemade...anything! This is a basic chicken broth recipe that you can add anything to...mushrooms, scallions, chick peas! Get creative, my Dad did. Thanks Pop for all those meals you created and concocted for us! It was an adventure that all of your grandchildren have benefited from!


  1. There was nothing awful about he hot dogs and tomato soup.

  2. I guess that depends on whose mouth was at the other end of the spoon! As his grandson, I guess you had different taste!