Clear Chicken Soup: For Easter and Always

Filed under: Bites & Bits,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , April 14, 2014

With Easter coming up this Sunday (and Passover having just started last night), I thought it would be a good idea to go back to basics with a dish that is fundamental to so many cultures: chicken soup. Jewish households will certainly be making this with matzo balls for their Passover seder, but I’ll be making it for Easter dinner, adding lots of fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs, along with shredded chicken.

Candy's chicken soup2

So, why focus on a recipe for something most of us having been making since forever? Because, surprisingly, a lot of people do it wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I see directions for making stock that calls for bringing the liquid to a rolling boil, then turning the temperature down and simmering for hours. They have the last part right, but if the end game is to enjoy a clear, clean-tasting broth, bringing it to a boil won’t get you there.

Instead, try low and slow–as in starting with the heat medium low, waiting until the broth just approaches a simmer, covering, reducing the heat to low, and then giving it several hours to fully cook and develop its flavors. It takes more  time, yes, but the result is exquisite–so much better than boiling. With this technique you’re coaxing flavors, not forcing them.

You can also successfully make stock in a slow cooker at the lowest heat level.

This is such a loving process that honors the ingredients and starts you off on the right foot for whatever dish you wish to prepare.

Good stock rocks!

Happy Easter!

Candy Wallace’s Clear Chicken Soup
Serves 6 to 8
(printable recipe)

Clear broth was always required for soups being served in my grandmother’s restaurant. In order to achieve clear stock you must always heat low and slow, never allowing the stock/soup to actually boil. My chicken soup is an example of this visually delightful stock process. I actually use a combination (50/50) of homemade chicken stock and water to make the soup.

Ingredients
Start with an organic chicken for the soup. Place breast down in the pot.
Add:
4 cups homemade clear chicken stock*
4 cups water
1 medium chopped yellow onion
3 quartered carrots
3 quartered celery stalks
2 to 3 fresh bay leaves
A handful of fresh thyme stems (6 or 8)
Salt
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 fresh thyme stems
Other vegetables you enjoy

*Candy’s Chicken Stock
Stock is chicken parts or a whole chicken, chicken bones, vegetables you have on hand and want to use or lose, plus carrots, celery, and onion (mirepoix), fresh herbs, and salt (no pepper–it can turn your stock acrid) slow cooked over low heat, strained, cooled, and stored. (But remember the old adage of garbage in/garbage out, so don’t use your stockpot instead of your garbage disposal.) Also, always start with cold water and use enough of it to just cover the chicken and vegetables–about four inches over. Skim often if needed, but you don’t need to stir often. Just cook low and slow for hours.

Directions

1. Add stock, water, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, and salt to the pot with the chicken. Heat on medium low flame and allow it to just begin to simmer before cover, reducing to lowest heat and continuing to cook for several hours. This process produces almost no scum on the top of the soup, but if it does produce any foam or scum, simply skim it off and discard.

2. When the chicken in the pot is cooked through and falling apart, remove it from the pot so the skin can be removed and the chicken boned and shredded. Cool it and store it separately.

3. Pour the stock through a sieve or chinois to separate the mirepoix  and thyme from the stock, leaving the enhanced clear stock base.

4. Cool and store separately. When soup is fully cooled, you may skim the layer of fat that rises to the top.

5. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the broth for the final soup, along with three to four stems of fresh thyme and any other vegetables you care to add to the soup, like small florets of cauliflower or broccoli, haricot vert, spinach, or whatever you enjoy and have at hand.

6. Once again, bring soup to a simmer on low heat, stir in the shredded chicken and allow to simmer until the vegetables reach the level of firmness you enjoy. If you wish, you can add pre-cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or pearl barley at this point and serve with hot rolls, a fresh salad, and cheese board.

Candy's chicken soup1

What are your favorite Easter dishes? What is the journey that led you to becoming a personal chef? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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