Making a homemade chicken soup like Mom used to make is nothing like making chicken stock. It’s also nothing like a chef’s version of chicken soup. Ignore recipes that call for browning the vegetables; ignore recipes that say they are making chicken stock; instead, make this true chicken soup recipe because it is what generations of moms and grandmoms have made for their families. I could never decide what was more heavenly in chicken soup – my Mom’s Italian dumplings, my grandmother’s homemade noodles or the Jewish mom’s matzo balls so in the end I would try them all.
Here is my mom’s chicken soup recipe that I made for my own family of five children and still make today for grandchildren and anyone else who has a longing for old-fashioned chicken soup. I use a big, fat organic chicken, carrots, celery, onions, salt, pepper and sometimes a handful of fresh herbs that add complexity, but don’t take away from the wonderful chickeny flavor. I DO NOT brown the vegetables beforehand and I keep the fat on the chicken because it flavors the soup. In the end I get several quarts of soup that I use in chicken pot pie, chicken tetrazzini casserole and chicken soup with dumplings, egg noodles or matzo balls.
1 four to five lb organic chicken
1 lb chicken parts (wings, necks or backs) optional
2 large yellow onions peeled and quartered
1 bunch of celery including the hearts and leaves, cut into large chunks
3 to 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 or 2 peeled cloves of garlic cut in half
6 sprigs of Italian parsley
Salt, pepper and seasoned salt to sprinkle on the raw chicken
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp sea salt
8 cups of cold water plus 1 cup
Take out the bag of parts left in the chicken. Rinse the neck and keep for soup. Save other parts for another dish. Rinse the chicken under cold water. Pat dry. Sprinkle some sea salt inside the large cavity of the chicken.
Sprinkle the top of the chicken with salt and black pepper. (Sometimes I use a sprinkle of seasoned salt on the breast part.) Place the chicken in a large soup pot. Add the optional other chicken parts, also rinsed under cold water, patted dry and sprinkled with salt and pepper, if using.
Add 8 cups of cold water to the chicken and vegetables in the soup pot. Add 1 tbsp sea salt to the water.Turn the heat to high, cover the pot, and bring the liquid to a boil. At this point, some people like to remove the scum because it looks scary. I myself am not scared of scum and I dare to leave it in. Do not tell my mother this.
After the soup comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer, keep it covered and simmer for 1 hour. Check to see if the liquid went down too much. You can then add another 1/2 to 1 cup of water. Keep simmering the soup for another 1/2 hour to 1 hour until the chicken meat is very tender and juicy.
Turn off the heat when the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a plate to cool a bit. When the chicken meat is cool enough for you to remove it from the bones, remove all the meat and place in a bowl. Place covered bowl in the fridge if using that day or the next day. Freeze for future use.
Pour the soup into a fine strainer that has been placed over a bowl so that the vegetables go into the strainer and the soup goes into the bowl. I fish out the cooked carrots and place them in the strained soup. Refrigerate the soup covered for several hours or until the fat rises to the top and can be removed. I usually let the soup stay in the fridge all day and I use it that night or the next day. If you don’t plan to use the soup right away or the chicken meat , place both soup and chicken meat in plastic containers and freeze until planning to use them.
After the fat has risen to the top of my chicken soup and solidified enough to remove it with a spoon, I remove it. If planning to make matzoh ball soup, I reserve 4 tbsp of the chicken fat to use in the matzoh ball recipe.
3 large eggs, blended well with a fork
3/4 cup of matzo meal (found in the Jewish foods aisle of the supermarket)
1/4 cup chicken fat, melted (the same fat you removed from the chilled soup)
3 tbsp club soda
1 and 1/4 tsps Kosher salt or sea salt
Mix blended egg mixture, matzo meal, melted chicken fat, club soda and salt in a medium bowl. Mixture resembles wet sand, but firms up as it chills. Cover the bowl and chill in fridge for at least two hours. Mixture can be made one day ahead.
On the day of serving matzo ball soup:
Heat up one to two quarts of the chicken soup. I usually add in some of the chicken breast meat and sliced up cooked carrots I saved from making the soup. I turn off the heat and set the soup aside for later, after the matzo balls are done.
Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, take the matzo mixture out of the fridge. Scoop out 2 tbsps of matzoh meal mixture at a time and form into nice round balls using wet hands to keep the mixture from sticking to your hands.
When all the balls are rolled, add the matzoh balls to the boiling water and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. (Don’t let them boil or they will break apart.) Cover the pot and simmer the matzo balls until cooked through and starting to sink, 20 – 25 minutes.
Turn off the heat and ladle both soup and matzo balls into a large individual soup bowls. I sprinkle the soup with parmesan cheese. I hope this is not deemed incorrect by Jewish moms everywhere, but I am, of course, an Italian woman, so I sprinkle parmesan cheese on everything.