May 2, 2008
A couple of months ago some friends and I took a one-night cooking class that was supposed to focus on Passover foods. It wound up being a dud: it was a demo rather than hands-on, the instructor was unprofessional (“jokingly” cursing at participants she was friends with during her talk), and the recipes were nothing special. The eye rolling at our table made it a fun night out with the girls, though.
One of the recipes demonstrated was for a traditional Jewish chicken soup. There were a couple of women who had never made it from scratch before and unfortunately other than an ingredient list (and advocating enormous amounts of salt), the instructor offered less guidance than I would have expected. She was caught off guard when people wanted to know exactly what size chicken to buy, how much water to add, and how much soup it would all eventually yield (she just knew that she generally bought *this* chicken, used *that* pot, covered it with *this much* water). If you’re teaching a cooking class, I don’t think those kinds of questions should surprise you!
Still, I realized that my soup-making technique was similar to hers: I didn’t know the specific quantities, I just made it how I made it. (Which is fine when you’re not charging for and teaching classes!) I was of no help to my friends, either, except to confirm that you DO NOT need to add bouillon cubes to homemade chicken soup if you make it correctly in the first place.
I made a pot of chicken soup earlier in the week, and measured it all out this time in case it’s helpful for a first-time soup maker.
I use an 8 quart stock pot, but it is packed to the brim and I would probably be better off with a 10- or 12-quart size using the ingredients below. When the mood hits me, I also sometimes add whole cloves of garlic (peeled), leeks, or turnips.
As I’ve mentioned before, I follow the same technique as J.’s grandma in terms of straining the soup so it is clear, and then customizing each bowl based on what each person likes. (See Would You Like Parsnip with That?)
Jewish Chicken Soup
Makes 11 cups of clear soup, or about 16 appetizer servings with vegetables & chicken added back in
3.5 – 4 lb. kosher pullet chicken, rinsed and cavity emptied
1 stalk celery, trimmed and each rib quartered
2 large sweet onions (such as Vidalia), peeled and quartered
1/2 lb. carrots (peeled and quartered, or use baby carrots as is)
4 parsnips, peeled and quartered (often sold pre-packaged in a clear bag)
large handful dill (washed but just trimmed, not chopped)
large handful parsley (washed but just trimmed, not chopped)
12 c. cold water
salt & pepper to taste
Place your cleaned chicken at the bottom of your stock pot, and add all ingredients on top except for the salt and pepper. The water should cover the top of your chicken.
Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for at least 2 hours, but up to four hours. Once an hour, use a spoon to push down any chicken or vegetables that are not submerged. You can also skim off any raft that forms (the foamy stuff at the top of the pot).
Remove all solids to bowls or plates with a slotted spoon. I like to put the vegetables on one dish and the chicken on another, and discard the sad-looking dill and parsley at this point. Strain soup through cheesecloth or a chinois so that it is clear, then season with salt and pepper. You can now serve the soup with chicken picked off the bone and vegetables added back in.
If you are storing the soup, allow it to cool overnight in the refrigerator. Skim the solidified fat off the top of the soup and discard, and then separate into smaller portions and freeze. Vegetables and chicken can be frozen separately, too.