One of my all-time favorite meals is Chicken Soup using Homemade Chicken Stock as the base. The warmth and comfort that I feel when I sit down on my couch to eat a bowl of the flavorful aromatic soup is most likely connected to my mom caring for me as a child when I was sick. Memories are highly connected to the senses ,especially that of smell and taste. Chicken Soup seems to touch my soul in a way no other food can.
Chicken Soup has been dubbed as “Jewish Penicillin” dating back to ancient times and I have often heard that chicken soup is good for the cold, not just the soul. It seems that these statements proved correct. . As of late, researchers have found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties as well as the ability to decrease the number of cells that congregate in the lung area, thereby relieving the development of cold symptoms.
Although the medicinal properties of chicken soup make this a “power food” in my book, the taste alone of chicken soup holds its own when made with the right ingredients.
The depth of flavor in the chicken soup lies completely in the stock, for this is the base of the soup. The stock produced from free-range organic chickens is amazing and not even comparable to the stock from young chickens that you buy at your local store.
Organic stock from the supermarket is perfectly fine when you do not have homemade chicken stock; you just may not get that depth of flavor that you can create by making your own stock. Oftentimes, I add the store-bought stock to my own homemade stock to make it go further.
I prefer using roosters and aging hens for my stock as opposed to roasters or broiler chickens. Older chickens create a more robust flavor in that they have had longer to roam free and scratch for insects, thereby gaining muscle and connective tissue, which produce incredible body in stews, dumplings, and stock because it melts into collagen as you braise it. Don’t get me wrong, roasters and broilers will be fantastic too if they have been allowed to roam and forage for their food.
Note: Old hens and roosters have always been preferred over broiler chickens for making chicken soup because of their rich flavor in the chicken broth. Chinese 5 spice, a blend of star anise, clover, fennel seed, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper, can be eliminated from this recipe, but I personally think it adds a special touch to the dish.
Homemade Chicken Stock
3 – 5 pounds whole free range roasting chickens
3 large yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
6 carrots, unpeeled and halved
4 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds
20 sprigs fresh parsley
15 sprigs fresh thyme
20 sprigs fresh dill
1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
To make the stock:
- Cut chickens into several pieces. Place chicken, onions, carrots, celery stalks, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large stockpot. Add 7 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 6 hours. Turn burner off and let it sit for 1 hour. Strain. Pull the chicken off of the bone and reserve for another use.
- Place chicken stock in refrigerator overnight. The next day, remove the surface fat. Use immediately or freeze for up to 3 months.
Ingredients for soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 Vidalia onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups celery, chopped
3 cups carrots, chopped
3/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped and divided
2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
4 cups chicken meat, shredded
1 quart chicken stock
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- In a large crock heat olive oil until simmering. Add onions and sauté until onions are translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.
- Add celery, carrots, ½ cup parsley, rosemary, Chinese 5 Spice, salt and pepper, chicken, and stock. Stir ingredients well.
- Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Ladle into bowls and serve with remaining parsley.