Chicken soup: the only true Jewish dish

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Chicken soup affectionately known as Jewish penicillin has been touted with curative powers for centuries. Beyond its health benefits, a good and aromatic, and the base for a myriad of soups and stews. And where in the world would we float (or sink) our matzah balls if we didn’t have chicken soup, which Joan Nathan honors as the “only truly Jewish dish.”

and golden chicken stock is delicious and aromatic, and the base for a myriad of soups and stews. And where in the world would we float (or sink) our matzah balls if we

didn’t have chicken soup, which Joan Nathan honors as the “only truly Jewish dish.”

As a cooking teacher I’m often asked for a chicken soup recipe that “tastes like bubbe’s.” Let’s proceed with Chicken Soup 101.

1) Buy the best quality chicken you can find. Bubbe’s chickens were raised differently than today’s chickens, which turn out to have a lot of fat and little flavor. Use lots of extra wings and backs to give extra body and flavor. (I like to use Aaron’s organic kosher chickens available at Trader Joe’s.)

2) Use pristine, earthy vegetables (don’t use this as an opportunity to clean out your vegetable bin … garbage in, garbage out). Leave the skins on the onions for a golden color.

3) Use just enough water to cover the contents of your stockpot by two inches. Too much water will result in a watery stock.

4) Long, slow cooking will help extract flavor from all the ingredients. Cook for at least three hours.

5) Remove fat and skin from chickens … peel the vegetables.

6) While stock is cooking be sure to skim off the grayish foam several times until it is completely gone. This foam will make your soup taste bitter and look unattractive.

7) Try not to allow the stock to boil … the bubbles can trap fat. Just let it simmer gently (tiny bubbles around the perimeter of the stock).

Chicken Stock | Makes about 8 cups

2 lbs. mixed chicken parts, such as necks, wings and backs
1 medium chicken, cut up, fat and skin removed
2 onions, with skins, quartered
1 leek, thoroughly washed and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, (optional)
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs parsley

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients and cover with cold water. Bring to a gentle simmer and skim grayish foam that forms on surface. Continue to skim until this foam no longer forms. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 4 hours. Strain into storage containers, let cool and refrigerate. Remove solidified fat from surface.

Spinach, Rice and Carrot Soup | Serves 4 to 6

1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and diced
7 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup long-grain rice
salt and pepper
1/2 lb. spinach, stemmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chicken, diced (optional)

In a large saucepan combine carrots and stock. Bring to a boil and stir in rice, salt and pepper. When mixture returns to a boil stir in spinach and simmer about 30 minutes or until rice and carrots are tender. Stir in garlic, chicken if using, and taste for salt and pepper. n

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].