Chicken Soup for the American Soul

Chickensoup

Last Tuesday was a very special moment, one which we will recall with perfect clarity, years into the future, precisely where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.  Yes, that news.  That change arrived.  It’s the moment we saw the very embodiment of our ideals.  Whether you believe in the much-maligned notion of the American Exceptionalism, this was truly a uniquely American story. 

Where was I, you asked?  I was home, like millions of you, glued to the television, watching with baited breath as the returns came in.  It’s not the kind of night I wanted to spend a lot of time in front of the stove.  I wanted something simple to make, and something comforting, like the old cashmere sweater, a little frayed at the edges, I was wearing that night.  So I made a chicken soup.  My simple chicken soup, with ingredients that didn’t require a special trip to the store.  Like my simple tomato sauce, it’s something I’ve done for such a long time, and thought it almost too simple to even blog about it.  And, yes, it’s David again who suggested I woite a post about it.

What’s so special about the soup then, you asked?  Well, it’s nothing special at all.  That’s it.  It’s made with just five ingredients: a chicken, an onion, a couple carrots and a couple more stalks of celery.  And the fifth ingredients?  Water.  Yes, just plain water.  And then some salt and pepper to taste.  That’s really it.  I sometimes use a teaspoon of curry powder if I have some on hand.  Just a tiny amount, not to make it taste like a curry, but just enough to register a little complexity in the broth.  I cook everything just until the chicken is done, then remove the meat and cook only the bones for a little while longer, extracting every bit of flavor and body out of the bones, before putting the meat back in and serve.

This simple and intensely flavorful soup was the perfect food for the climate that night – comforting, renewing, just what we needed, a chicken soup for the American soul.

Americansoul

(Images from the Huffington Post)

Chicken Soup for the American Soul

1 4-5lbs chicken, whole
1 large or two small onions, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2tbsp of olive oil or butter
1tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
water

Mirepoix

Heat oil or butter in a pot large enough to hold the entire chicken.  Add the onions and let cook until translucent
and just starting to turn slightly brown and caramelized.  Add the celery and
carrots and continue to cook until the chopped celery turns translucent and the carrot pieces soften a bit. 

Cookingchicken

Add about a teaspoon of curry powder and cook for another minute, stirring to prevent burning at the bottom of the pot.  Quickly rinse the whole chicken and place it breast side up into the pot.  Fill the pot with enough water to submerge the whole chicken.  Close the lid and bring to a full boil.  Then, remove the lid, turn the heat down to simmer, skim the foam off the top and put the lid back on.  Don’t close the lid completely, leave it slightly askew to vent.  Continue to skim the foam off the top.  Let cook for one hour.

Removingmeat

At the end of the hour, the chicken should be just cooked.  Remove the chicken from the pot and place in a large plate.  I use a large pyrex baking dish for this.  Separate the chicken meat from the carcass, using a knife, fork, a pair tongs, or whatever pleases you.  Then, with a pair kitchen shear or very sharp knife, cut up the carcass into small chunks of bones.  Place the bones into a large strainer (the insert of a pasta pot works well too).  If you don’t have a strainer or a pasta pot, you can wrap the bone pieces in muslin, tie it up, and drop the package into the pot.  The idea is to have an easy way to remove the bones from the soup once you’ve extracted all the flavors out of them.

Nowsoup

Drop the bones back into the soup and continue to simmer for another half an hour.  Meanwhile, cut the chicken meat into bite-size chunks.  You can remove the flabby-but delicious-bits of cooked skin if you’d like.  I love them so I leave mine in there.  Sprinkle a little salt (or white soy sauce) over the meat to add just a bit more flavor.  Cover the bowl with plastic or a piece of foil and set aside. 

After the bones have been in the pot for half an hour, remove and disgard them.  They’re no good anymore now that all the flavors have been squeezed out of them.  Put the chicken meat back into the pot and bring back to a simmer.  You can skim off the gloriously yellow fat in the pot if you’re afraid of that kind of thing.  I never bother, fat is flavor people!  Check to seasoning, add more salt if need, a few turns of the peppermill won’t hurt either.  Turn the heat off and serve.

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  • http://www.oakmonster.com oakley

    I *love* home made chicken soup. However, I don’t love getting the chicken off the bone. So I’ve turned to the trusty crock pot with pretty much the same ingredients as your soup but using chicken thighs, add some garlic and parm-reg rind instead of curry powder. Then I pick OUT the bones at the end. ;-D

  • http://zeroface.wordpress.com Phil

    Excellent post, and that bowl of soup looks as comforting as last Tuesday was as a whole. What an awesome day.
    Once it cools down here for good (we’re expecting temps in the high 90′s here in Orange County later this week) I’ll make this. Then we can start stew season for good.

  • Simon

    Nice soup – but where’s the noodles? The fat in chicken soup is apparently good for you – Shmaltz I think its called? I’m sure I’ll be corrected if the pron. is wrong. Always left in in our soup for that reason – does anyone know otherwise?

  • http://www.thetreadmillguide.com sarah

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    Sarah
    http://www.thetreadmillguide.com

  • http://www.mevrouwcupcake.com Mari

    I love making chicken soup with a whole chicken, but I’ve never added the bones back to the soup after de-boning the chicken, thanks for the tip!
    I live in the Netherlands and I actually had a butcher tell me once, that it was a shame to “waste” a good French chicken on soup! I stopped giving him my business shortly thereafter.

  • http://www.homemade-soup-recipes.com/best-split-pea-soup-recipe.html Erik

    The best things are always the simplest, are they not? These are great photos that do justice to a great recipe.

  • http://foodeatenlifelived.blogspot.com Lainey

    that looks delicious.
    i was actually wondering if you had a recipe for the Thai fish ball soup that is served everywhere there. i lived just outside bangkok for about six months and had it all the time. but i don’t usually see it on restaurant menus here.

  • http://www.macheesmo.com Nick

    This looks fantastic but I must admit I prefer some egg noodles in my soup. I’ve been feeling really sick lately and actually just made almost this exact same recipe except I threw in about 8 oz. of egg noodles near the end.
    Cheers,
    Nick
    http://www.macheesmo.com

  • http://profile.typekey.com/rubinow3/ rubinass

    Simon,
    Schmaltz tastes good, but I don’t think anybody thinks it’s actually good for you. I’m almost positive that copious amounts of schmaltz killed off my grandfather.

  • http://www.thetreadmillguide.com sarah

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    Sarah
    http://www.thetreadmillguide.com

  • http://bring-your-appetite.blogspot.com Jessica D

    This looks beautifully simple and wholesome. Your blog is so well-written and such a pleasure to read.

  • Simon
  • Taree

    Hi….Schmaltz it is(And since it is also used to indicate a specific emotional state….Schmaltz was something that was going around on Tues and was lovely!)
    And it is the fat under the skin that research has shown to help with the common cold.( Its a fact according to the little medical fact letter that both UC and Harvard send out.) But I dont think you need to swim in it. So I always use one of those little gadgets that separates it and keep half.
    Taree

  • http://befoodled.blogspot.com Asha

    That sounds delicious and I love how it’s only five ingredients. You should share more of your simple recipes – they’re the best kind!

  • http://www.pepperjellyorganic.com Kim

    This looks so delicious. I think I’ll make a batch or two to keep in my freezer. There is no doubt in my mind that some friend or another will come down with the flu in the coming months and need a quick fix! Thanks!

  • WhyNotRasam?

    In the south of India there is a wonderful soup called Rasam. It requires a blend of spices, known as Rasam powder, that are specific to soup. I made the above chicken soup with Rasam powder instead of curry powder and think the soup is the better for it. Anyone else out there tried it (or interested in trying) with Rasam powder and sharing their opinion on how it made a difference?

  • WhyNotRasam?

    In the south of India there is a wonderful soup called Rasam. It requires a blend of spices, known as Rasam powder, that are specific to soup. I made the above chicken soup with Rasam powder instead of curry powder and think the soup is the better for it. Anyone else out there tried it (or interested in trying) with Rasam powder and sharing their opinion on how it made a difference?

  • http://www.darwenreporter.com Linda

    Great for this of year with winter colds coming on.

  • Kris

    If you really want to extract ALL the flavor from the bones, try simmering them (after removing the cooked meat) in a thick-bottomed covered pot for 20-24 hours. (Cook the soup vegetables later, separately.) The resulting broth is rich, hearty and incredibly nourishing with high amounts of gelatin (protein), collegen (good for your joints!) and minerals (magnesium & calcium, among others). I get a kick out of smushing the well-cooked bones between my fingers at the end — at this point, even the bones are edible, if you like the flavor of marrow.

  • http://www.myfirstkitchen.net My First Kitchen

    There’s nothing like chicken soup. Thanks for the idea on curry powder; I bet that’s great.

  • http://bonbonsmots.blogspot.com/ Mary

    Curry powder! Aaaaah brilliant. Sometimes my soups need that extra kick, I usually end up throwing in more thyme, but I think curry powder is just the thing I need.

  • http://tuttidolce.com Trixy

    Beautiful! I’m craving some now (:

  • http://www.woodbridgewines.com Elizabeth

    Hey everyone! I’m not quite sure that this comment fits the bill right here, but its timely and I love this site and figured that all of you foodies would love this information before it’s too late. Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi is hosting this charity auction on eBay now through Sunday benefitting America’s Second Harvest to end hunger.
    Anyway, the packages are AWESOME!!!!! I was just outbid for a taping of America’s Test Kitchen followed by dinner at Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger, where he will personally present the dishes in Boston. My sights are now going for a tasting menu at The Mansion on Turtle Creek– I’ve been dying to try their head chef’s food in Dallas!!!
    check it out (just don’t outbid me!) http://www.woodbridgewines.com

  • paul

    Are you actually still a blogger? Seems like you are not posting so much anymore? I miss coming to your blog and seeing an ever changing variety of ideas. Seems like the posts sit so long they become stale. I find myself checking your site less and less often.
    I want the old Pim back!

  • http://mickymath.over-blog.com mickymath

    ta soupe me plait! j’adore!biises micky

  • Alan UK

    The cold weather has suddenly arrived in London….and what better to do on a freezing Saturday morning than make a warming bowl of chicken soup?!
    Here’s my little tip. Serve into big, deep bowls and then pass round a ramekin of ‘sambal Oelek’ hot chilli paste (Conimex brand is superb)…let your guests stir in to taste – about 1/2 teaspoon will bring a nice glow to the cheeks! And it tastes just fantastic!

  • http://chefslikeus.wordpress.com Justin

    That is about the best, most simple way to make a classic soup I’ve seen. I’m definitely going to try a pinch of curry powder next time. Thanks for a great blog!

  • http://www.LauraFenamore.com Laura Fenamore

    Dear Simon, There are some things that just can’t be outdone in this world, and chicken soup to soothe us, body and soul, is surely one of them. The simple, healthy goodness and energy in those few ingredients can’t be missed! As a Body Image Mentor for many years, I am given many opportunities to remind clients (and friends) that while food itself is NOT love, it can give us many opportunities to choose self-love and self-care. Simple recipes like yours for chicken soup are not just food — they are food for the soul!
    Warmly, Laura Fenamore, CPCC
    Body Image Mastery Mentor
    http://www.LauraFenamore.com

  • latin
  • David

    Thank you! This is a great recipe. It is very good, and there is little to remember. A mirepoix followed by curry powder, chicken, water, and salt to taste at the end.
    For me, I cut my chicken up because my pot is too big and filling it with water to cover a whole chicken thins the soap too much. I also take the breasts out after 25 minutes and the rest out after 40 minutes so the meat is not dried out.

  • Karen

    Well!!! I thought I always made the best chicken soup until now. I followed your recipe to a T except I did add a qt of Wolfgang Pucks chicken stock (sorry – I just can’t break away from the stuff) I loved the touch of curry but I believe the secret to your recipe is the bones! Never have I ever extracted so much flavor in my soup. I’m a believer. I also agree about the fat. I only skimmed the foam but left the fat – something I’ve been always told to do but NO MORE! This soup has so much flavor I believe it is better than restaurant quality. Thank you so much for posting it. Now I’m gearing up to make your awesome Pad Thai now that I have all the ingredients bought.

  • nestor

    wave that rich watches the quisera soup deberda to prove sopà authentic
    but being the case yaa that your you put reseta we will prove it to do to and wave I am nestor of guatemala

  • http://www.obviouslyomnivore.com Xai

    wow. that’s all i can say!

  • http://www.tiffanyfree.com/tiffany-pendants.html Tiffany Pendant

    i see

  • http://www.tiffanyfree.com/tiffany-pendants.html Tiffany Pendant

    Well!!! I thought I always made the best chicken soup until now. I followed your recipe to a T except I did add a qt of Wolfgang Pucks chicken stock (sorry – I just can’t break away from the stuff) I loved the touch of curry but I believe the secret to your recipe is the bones! Never have I ever extracted so much flavor in my soup. I’m a believer. I also agree about the fat. I only skimmed the foam but left the fat – something I’ve been always told to do but NO MORE! This soup has so much flavor I believe it is better than restaurant quality. Thank you so much for posting it. Now I’m gearing up to make your awesome Pad Thai now that I have all the ingredients bought.

  • http://www.isinorthamerica.com Tina

    I am a person who never gets a well appetite without soup on the menu… even in the house or outside I always include soup. My favorite soup is the mushroom soap I also tried a chicken soup before but don’t like it much. Maybe yours would be better. I would love to try it.

  • Anonymous