Believe it or not, until now, I had never made authentic, Jewish-style chicken soup. But when a dear friend returned home from several months in hospital, having lost weight and in a weakened condition, I decided this was the time to cook up a batch of this beautiful broth with scientifically proven health benefits that, I believe, come from nutrients in the chicken’s bones.
Ideally, I would have used chicken feet along with the whole bird. However, the former item is hard to find in Stratford where I now live. Pity, as they add gelatinous texture and superb flavour that give that extra oomph to any clear chicken soup or stock.
And, although the recipe I used from a long-out-of-print cookbook by Globe & Mail restaurant critic Joanne Kates states that a stewing hen is neither required nor best for this, I felt wedded to the longstanding tradition among Jewish grandmothers and ordered a bird of that ilk from my local butcher. However, a regular chicken (preferablymaturally raised and air-chilled) would certainly do.
I followed Kates’s recipe, embellishing it slightly and omitting the feet – with delectable results. A parsnip or two is crucial for adding that lovely sweetish taste. I chopped tender parts of the chicken along with the carrots and parsnips and added them to the soup with some fresh pasta that I cooked separately, then placed in each bowl before pouring the soup on top. My friend and I agreed – this gorgeously golden, translucent soup should cure, or at least ameliorate, whatever ails you.
Naturally, I sat down and savoured the fruit of my labour with my recuperating pal. After all, sharing the food you’ve lovingly prepared for a kindred soul is the best part. The next time I make this I’ve vowed to do the really authentic thing and float homemade matzoh balls in each bowl.
Jewish Chicken Soup
4 lb/2 kilo chicken, cut in 8 pieces
6 chicken feet (optional)
2 onions, peeled, halved
2 parsnips, peeled, halved
2 celery stalks, washed, with leaves
4 carrots, peeled, cut in thirds
4 parsley roots, washed (optional)
1/2 cup parsley sprigs
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked noodles (al dente)
Place chicken in large saucepan. Cover with cold water; bring to boil over high heat.
Pour boiling water over chicken feet in bowl; let sit 5 minutes. Add to saucepan. Return water to boil; reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer about 30 minutes, skimming off scum at intervals.
Add onions and parsnips to chicken in saucepan. Simmer, partially covered, 15 minutes. Add celery, carrots, parsley roots and parsley. Simmer, partially covered, 15 minutes more. Strain soup into large bowl, reserving chicken, parsnips and carrots; discard the rest. Add salt and pepper to soup. Chill in fridge until fat layer settles on top; remove fat.
Meanwhile, remove skin and slice tender parts of chicken meat along with parsnips and carrots into smallish cubes. Add to soup.
Cook noodles just before serving and place a few in bottom of shallow bowls. Pour hot soup on top.
Makes about 8 servings.