The great thing about making chicken soup is that the process is very forgiving. All you need is a leftover chicken carcass, some olive oil and some vegetables. After that, it's up to you to add your own touch. Do you like noodles or rice? Spinach or parsley? Rosemary or cilantro? The choices are endless. Here is the most basic recipe, with options at the end.
- 1 chicken carcass
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 stalk of celery or fennel, chopped
- 2 - 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt, to taste
1. Cut off as much chicken meat as you can and chop it into bite-size pieces. Cover the meat and refrigerate. (If there is no meat, that's OK.)
2. Place the chicken carcass into a large, deep pot of cold fresh water. Turn the heat on medium high. As the water begins to simmer, use a slotted spoon to skim off the foam and fat that rise to the top. When the foam stops rising, partially cover the pot and let simmer very gently for 1 to 4 hours. (The longer it simmers, the more intense the broth.) 3. Pour the stock through a strainer. If you have time, refrigerate the stock and, when it is cold, skim off the fat that rises to the surface. At this point you have homemade chicken stock that can be frozen, refrigerated for a day or two, or used immediately.
3. To make soup, pour the olive oil into a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Turn the flame to medium and add the aromatic vegetables: the onion, carrot, celery (or fennel). Add the bay leaf. Sauté gently until the onion is translucent and everything is soft.
4. Add the stock and the reserved chicken to the aromatic vegetables. Cover and heat gently for about 30 minutes while you decide what else to add. Add salt to taste.
From this starting point, the possibilities really are endless. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Vegetables - Diced zucchini or freshly chopped tomatoes, added for the last 20 minutes of cooking, give a fresh, bright taste to a chicken soup. Finely chopped spinach or kale make a healthier soup. Diced potatoes or parsnips, cooked in soup for 30 minutes, or until tender, make a hearty winter soup.
- Herbs - Chopped parsley and a squeezed lemon added at the last minute make a bright, cheerful soup. Fresh thyme, rosemary or sage, added in the last 30 minutes, add aromatic depth.
- Vietnamese - Add cooked rice noodles, and a few dashes of fish sauce and lime juice at the last minute. (Add and taste, until proportions are as you like.) Serve with extra limes and a mixture of chopped chilies and fish sauce on the side for grown-ups.
- Mexican - Before serving, add finely chopped cilantro and chopped avocado, and squeeze a lime into the soup. Serve with freshly fried and salted strips of tortillas lying on top of the soup in each bowl.
- Italian - Add a can of drained cannellini beans, and a head of washed and chopped escarole. Add a can of chopped plum tomatoes, if you like. Cook for 15 more minutes.
- American version - Add cooked egg noodles (or rice or alphabet noodles) and finely chopped parsley.
Larissa Phillips is a contributing food editor for Parenthood.com and Dominion Parenting Media.