Monday, February 23, 2009

Chicken Soup

Yes, this is the kind of soup your grandma used to make. I say, if it ain't broke ...

With the whole family sick during various parts of the week, what better way to heal ourselves than with a good, brothy chicken soup? Apparently, the ability of chicken soup to help make us well is not just an old wives' tale. There is some truth to it (see here). At the very least, the warmth of the broth will make you feel temporarily better, and the liquid in the broth will help to hydrate you. It certainly can't hurt.

For vegetable matter in this soup, I use a traditional mirepoix (fancy French word for onions, carrots and celery). You can feel free to add or replace additional veggies. Some of the best are root veggies, such as turnip, celery root, and parsnip. If the soup will be frozen, I'd stick to heartier vegetables like these, but if you'll be eating it quickly, you could include leafy greens, like spinach, kale, or swiss chard. For a twist on the traditional, you could add some stewed tomatoes, grated horseradish, cabbage, or any other number of things that pop in your head. I find it a very versatile soup.

The addition of vinegar in this recipe helps to draw the nutrients from the chicken bones into the broth. It's a great way to boost you calcium intake from a natural, and very bio-available source (but make sure you also have enough vitamin D coming in, so you can actually make use of that calcium). The vinegar also adds a little acidity to the taste of the soup, which means you'll need less salt to achieve the same depth of flavor.

Chicken Soup
1 3-4 lb. whole chicken, innards removed
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced (halved lengthwise if carrots are very thick)
3 stalks celery, trimmed of ends and sliced
1 large onion, peeled and quartered (ends left in tact to avoid separation)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsps. white wine vinegar
3 bay leaves

Add all ingredients to a stock pot. Add cold water to the pot until the whole chicken is submerged. Heat over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 2 1/2 hours. During simmering, skim the "scum" off the top of the broth every so often. This will prevent your broth from becoming cloudy.

Cool the soup somewhat. Remove the chicken, onions, garlic and bay leaves from the pot. Discard the onions, garlic and bay leaves. Pick apart the meat from the bones of the chicken. Discard the bones. Add back however much chicken meat you'd like in the soup, and store the rest for another use.

Adjust seasonings in the soup. Refrigerate overnight or until the fat in the soup has risen to the surface and congealed. Remove the fat from the top. Heat and serve.

Note: If you'd like, you can add some cooked brown rice, wild rice, couscous, egg noodles, barley, or any other grain you like. I'd keep these separate from the soup to avoid them over-absorbing your broth, making them soggy and the soup too thick. Just add them when serving.

Serves 8-10

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