Everyone I know has a special Chicken Soup Recipe. Either handed down from a parent or grandparent, shared from a sibling or friend, found in a cookbook (or online): a recipe that has evolved over the years. Just as mine has.
When I’m making Chicken Soup I like to let it simmer on the stove for hours, often preparing it at night and letting it cook until morning. ( I wouldn’t recommend the overnight cook if you have a pet — the smell of chicken soup permeating through the house use to cause our dog to whimper non-stop!) Whichever way it’s prepared, the result is a deeply flavored, richly colored soup that’s highly aromatic. That’s when I plan in advance and have lots of time. Those are the times I’ll tuck away small containers filled with soup in the freezer for the unexpected; the sniffles, to use as a base in another recipe, for a ready-made meal.
Occasionally, I search the freezer, only to realize I’ve used up whatever soup was stowed away — often given to a child on their way out the door. It’s those times that I want a quick and easy way to prepare chicken soup that still has layers of flavor and hearty aromas, even if it lacks the deep golden color.
A few years ago I came across a recipe from Martha Stewart which was exactly that (Martha Stewart, Basic Chicken Soup). The base recipe has few ingredients, to which I’ve added a few of my own to increase the flavor range. From there you can basically add the ingredients that suit your fancy — or add nothing extra at all.
Don’t be shocked by the large amount of kosher salt added a the beginning of the recipe: it will not make the soup taste salty! It helps to draw out all the different flavors, without it you’ll just end up with a flat tasting soup.
QUICK AND EASY CHICKEN SOUP
1 large Kosher Chicken, (not less than 3.5-4 lbs), cut into 8ths, skin and excess fat removed
8 cups Water
1 1/4 tbsp Kosher Salt
4 cups Sweet Onion, (3 medium)
3 cups Celery, cut into 1″ pieces (3-5 stalks)
6 medium Carrots, sliced 3/4″ thick
1 Sweet Red Pepper, cut in half and cored
5 large Garlic Cloves, crushed
2″ fresh Ginger, cut into coins
3 dried Star Anise
1 tbsp whole Pepper Corns
Fresh Dill (add at the end end of cooking, if desired)
Put water, chicken and 1 1/4 tbsp kosher salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Skim the foam and any fat that has gathered at the top.
Add the onions — theres lots — the celery, red pepper, garlic, ginger, peppercorns and star anise. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken breasts. Add carrots. Continue to simmer the soup, partially covered, for another 40 minutes.
Remove the rest of the chicken. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the bones and reserve the meat.
Remove red pepper, ginger and star anise.
Put all the dark meat and as much as the white meat as you like back into the pot. I tend to throw all the meat in.
Taste to adjust seasonings.
If I’m using fresh dill, this is the time I’ll add it in, but for a stronger dill flavor, you can add it along with the celery and onion. … some of my children prefer it without any herbs, so I often hold off and only add it to the bowl when I’m ladling in hot soup.
Note: There are loads of onions in this soup, which really imparts a nice sweetness to the broth. However, since there are so many, if there’s any fat on the top it may prove difficult to skim after the soup has finished cooking. In that case, gently lay a piece of paper towel across the top of the soup then immediately remove it. You don’t want the paper towel immersed, you just want the very top of the soup absorbed … along with the fat. Repeat a few times, until most of the fat has been removed. You can also do this after refrigerating the soup, when the fat has solidified.