Mom frequently made big pots of soup when we were kids and I hated them all. It wasn't that her cooking was bad, it's because she'd make things like "Carcass Soup" (also known as Turkey or Chicken Soup). I thought it was so gross that she'd boil a leftover bird carcass on the stove for hours and then expected us to eat it. And the word "carcass" added an extra level of disgust. When I started making my own soups and used store-bought broths and stocks, I couldn't get the flavor I wanted no matter what herb or spice I added. I finally decided to make a batch with help from a carcass and I was amazed at how much richer the flavor was. I can't make Chicken Soup without it anymore. Even though it's March, winter still has a pretty strong hold on New England so I'm sure this won't be the last pot of soup of the season.
This recipe is a little time consuming so I recommend making it over the course of two nights or trying it out on a weekend when you have several hours you'll be at home. Oh and I'm FINALLY posting a recipe that is dairy-free. Aren't you proud?
1 4-6 lb whole chicken or chicken carcass* see note below
6-8 cups of water
7 carrots, 4 peeled, sliced, 3 cut in half
6 celery stalks, 3 sliced, 3 cut in half
2 1/2 large onions, 1 diced, 1 1/2 unpeeled and cut into quarters
8 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 6 unpeeled, smashed with knife once
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons dried dill
4 teaspoons dried thyme
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon ground savory (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large split chicken breast halves
olive oil for basting and cooking onions
1 1/2 cups pasta or egg noodles
2 teaspoons vinegar based hot sauce (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the chicken breasts on a cookie sheet and baste the skin with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes. Put aside and let cool.
While the chicken is roasting, put the carcass in a large pot (at least 5 or 6 quarts) and fill the pot with water except for the last two or three inches. Turn the burner on medium high and bring to a simmer. While you are heating the pot, throw in the celery and carrots that were cut in half (3 each), the quartered onions and the 6 cloves of smashed garlic. Next, add 1 tablespoon of dried dill, 2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 tablespoon of parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Lower the heat if it starts to overflow. A lot of the water will evaporate so feel free to add a few extra cups as it cooks.
Turn off the heat and strain all liquid through a fine sieve into a container, pressing any extra liquid out of the carcass and the vegetables. Discard everything but the strained liquid. Let the stock cool and then put in the fridge for a few hours. While your stock is cooling, remove the meat from your roasted chicken breasts and cut into cubes or shred if that's what you like. Put the chicken aside.
The entire bowl will have become almost solid with a layer of yellow fat on top. Skim off the fat with a spoon and discard. Don't be too grossed out that the stock is thick and gelatinous-this is actually desirable in a stock. The gelatin is a result of the breakdown of cartilage, joints, and calcium released from the bones. Yes, kind of disgusting but gelatin repairs cartilage in our own bodies (how many of us have creaky knees from years of running and/or being overweight?) and can calm an angry digestive system because it is easy to digest. Chicken soup truly is the miracle food it's reputation claims and not just an old wives tale.
Heat a little olive oil in the same pot (or a clean one if you do this over the course of two days) and saute the diced onions for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the two minced garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute. Remove both the onion and garlic to a plate and add the stock to the pot and warm up to a gentle simmer. Now it's time to add your additional herbs: 2 teaspoons of dill, two teaspoons of thyme, two teaspoons of dried parsley, 1 teaspoon of ground savory and the hot sauce (if you are using it), 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary and the cayenne pepper. Stir and let cook for 10 minutes. Next, add the noodles, sliced celery and carrots and simmer for 7-10 minutes, or until the noodles are tender. Last, stir in your cubed chicken and add more salt and pepper to taste (if you ended up with a lot of liquid stock, you will need quite a bit more salt).
Serve with lots of crusty bread.
* I'll buy a whole chicken and cook it as part of dinner. Once dinner is over and I've picked off all the meat, I'll then start cooking the carcass. If you don't have time to do it all in one night, you can put the carcass in the refrigerator and tackle it the next day.
All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley