There’s something about chicken broth. It is healing and restorative. It’s mother nature and mother’s love. It’s manna and Jewish penicillin. Making chicken broth, for me, is practically a religious experience. There is a reason why I’m known and loved for my soups–people ask why my various soups taste so good, and the answer is always the same: I start with a good stock. I use it as a base for any soup I make, and it’s also lovely in risotto. It takes some time when you start with the bones, but it’s worth it and the chicken can be used in so many dishes. If you follow me on Instagram you know I’m not afraid of making a giant batch. I freeze it in quarts, defrosting the day before I need it. I also freeze broth in muffin cups, because it’s great to have a small amount when needed, to add to a rice dish, or to add as an ingredient when a sauce isn’t quite right–there is a richness and depth to the broth that you can’t find in any single ingredient. Chicken broth is always greater than the sum of its parts. I consider it a medicine, and there’s something ancient about it that heals people both when they make it and when they eat it.
Chicken soup soothes the soul. Anytime anyone I love is under the weather the first thing I do is start a broth, and it begins with the basics: a whole chicken and fresh vegetables. There are so many methods and recipes for making beautiful stock, and here is the best one: your mother’s. But if she is not known for her stock (and if you have to ask her, chances are she’s not), I offer you mine. I prefer using the whole chicken, including necks and feet and backs, because the flavor is enriched by the meat cooking in there as well. For someone on a budget, you can forgo the whole chicken and use 6-9 backs and necks. If you are in the middle of this cooking process and begin to notice that it feels like a sacred art…you are not crazy, because indeed it is.
Always keep some frozen so that when you need the base for a soup, or if you have a sick friend, it will be easy to put together last-minute. I tend to make 9 quarts every time I prepare it. Once you are accustomed to homemade stock, you will never use store bought again.
•2T Kosher Salt (more later)
•1T whole peppercorns
•5 carrots, peeled
•5 celery stalks
•1 large white or yellow onion, slightly charred
•half a celery root, peeled
•1 parsnip, peeled
•1/2 bunch of flat parsley
•1 whole, cut-up chicken; reserve the breasts
•6 chicken backs
•6 chicken wings
•chicken feet (optional–add a few for good luck)
Wash all of the chicken well and set to dry. If you’re using the backs, they need to be rinsed well and cleaned of anything you don’t want on them.
Fill soup pot a little more than half full. Remember that you will be adding lots of other ingredients, so the pot’s going to get very full. Bring to a boil. You will likely need more salt with a very large pot, but start with 2 T salt and 1 T whole peppercorn. I use my giant soup pot, which is 16 quarts, because I make a lot of soups, meatballs and Bolognese sauce.
Tip: It’s just as easy to make a lot of broth as it is to make a little.
Tip: When simmering, don’t boil the broth too fast because the broth won’t remain clear.
Tip: Char the onion on the stove burner for one or two minutes, turning on all sides, before adding.
To the boiling water, add the ingredients including all the whole vegetables and chicken, reserving the breast for later. Bring back to a boil. You will notice some white matter that collects on top; skim that out, and reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Allow it to simmer slowly.
It’s fun to taste along the way and see how it changes. About 25 minutes before done, add the breast (on the bone) and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove breasts and set aside to use in Chicken Rice Soup below. When broth tastes done, and the chicken bones are falling apart, it’s done. Take solids out and drain the broth. A cheesecloth can be nice to use in a colander so that the broth is clear.
Chicken Rice Soup
•2 quarts of chicken broth
•Cook rice as on the package; I prefer brown rice, and I use around 6 T raw –you can use day old rice
•Tear cooked chicken breast into bite sized pieces (cut off any weird bits)
•3 carrots, chopped
•3 celery sticks, chopped
•Half of medium onion, chopped
•Flat leaf parsley
•1 teaspoon tomato paste
•2 T butter
Put chicken broth on stove to boil
Sauté carrots, celery, and onion in 2 tablespoons of butter for a couple of minutes–don’t brown.
Add the vegetables and chicken and rice to broth for a couple of minutes and bring to boil.
To finish, add a teaspoon of tomato paste added to a half cup of warm broth, and let it dissolve. When it’s liquid, add to soup, stir and it’s done. Garnish with chopped flat parsley and add salt, pepper, etc. to taste.
A Fabulous Idea:
When the chicken broth is done, I hate throwing out those vegetables which are beautifully saturated with chicken fat, so I blend them all together with a can of crushed tomatoes and a spoonful of tomato paste. Use as much broth as you would like; for me, it’s at least a quart or two, a bit of granulated garlic, dried oregano, salt and any other spices you want–including your homemade harissa. Put back on stove to heat. It’s a lovely blended soup, and it freezes great: perfect for a weeknight dinner with a salad.