Chicken Soup From Scratch
Chicken soup is one of the most painless and pleasing recipes a home cook can master. This soup has all the classic flavors (celery, carrot, parsley) but has been updated for today's cooks, who can't easily buy the stewing hen and packet of soup vegetables that old-fashioned recipes used to call for. A whole bird provides the right combination of fat, salt and flavor. Don't be tempted to use all white meat, as the flavor won't be as round. Because making soup involves the bones and deep tissues of the bird, it is particularly reassuring here to use the highest-quality poultry you can find. This method produces a fragrant, golden, savory soup you want to eat all winter long; it's a perfect backdrop for noodles, rice or matzo balls.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 1chicken, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, with skin, cut up
- 3stalks celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
- 2large carrots, cut into chunks
- 2yellow onions, peeled and halved
- 1parsnip or parsley root (optional)
- About 1 dozen large sprigs parsley
- About 1 dozen black peppercorns
- 2bay leaves
- 2teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
- 3tablespoons reserved chicken fat, more if needed
- 3leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced crosswise into thin half-moons
- 3large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
- Kosher salt and ground black or white pepper
- Egg noodles (fresh or dried), such as packaged wide noodles, spaetzle, fettuccine or pappardelle cut into short lengths (see note)
- Finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, scallions, dill or a combination
Step 1Place the chicken, celery, carrots, onions, parsnip (if using), parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large soup pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch.
Step 2Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to very low. Adjust the heat until the soup is “smiling”: barely moving on the surface, with an occasional bubble breaking through. Cook uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Step 3When cool enough to handle, use tongs to transfer chicken from the pot to a container. Taste the broth and continue to simmer it until it is concentrated and tasty. Strain broth through a fine sieve (or a colander lined with cheesecloth) into a separate container. Discard all the solids from the strainer (or reserve the vegetables, chill and serve with vinaigrette, if you wish).
Step 4Refrigerate chicken pieces and broth separately for at least 8 hours (or up to 3 days), until a thick layer of yellow fat has risen to the top of the broth.
Step 5When ready to finish the soup, use your fingers to separate chicken breast meat from bones and skin. Discard bones and skin. Use two forks to pull the breast meat apart into soft chunks, or use a knife and cut into bite-size pieces. (Reserve dark meat for another use.)
Step 6Skim chicken fat from top of broth and set aside. Place 3 tablespoons of the fat in a soup pot with a lid. Add leeks, stir to coat, and heat over medium heat until leeks begin to fry. Then reduce the heat to a gentle sizzle and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
Step 7Add carrots, sprinkle with salt, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more. (Keep in mind that vegetables will continue to cook in the soup.) Do not brown.
Step 8Pour broth into pot with vegetables and heat to a simmer. Add noodles and simmer until heated through, soft and plumped with chicken broth. Add the breast meat, then taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, soup should have some golden droplets of fat on top; if needed, add more chicken fat one teaspoon at a time.
Step 9Serve immediately, in a tureen or from the pot, sprinkling each serving with herbs.