The trees are dripping with color as their leaves spread to the ground, the days are shorter and the rain has finally arrived. It’s never been more welcome than this year. The earth seems relieved after all those dry days and I know I feel fresher for the change in weather. This weather also whispers “soup” in my ear. I can’t think of anything more cozy than rain pattering against the window and soup bubbling on the stove.
The recipe I’m sharing today is one of my favorites. It takes a while, but most of that time can be spent snuggled on the couch reading while the alchemy of water transforming into rich broth takes place in your pot. It’s a recipe for chicken soup. Now, you may have your own favorite and I completely understand-there are probably as many different types of chicken soup as there are families, but if you don’t, here’s a recipe to start you on your own path to your personal chicken soup nirvana. It’s delicious, healthy, comforting and open to variation. I hope it inspires you to spend some time in your kitchen relishing the rain instead of cursing it for forcing you indoors.
(Sorry there’s no photo, but the last bowl got eaten before I could capture one! Picture this: rich golden broth, with huge glistening chunks of chicken surrounded by the occasional spot of orange carrot and green chard….)
Serves 6 as a main course
about 3 hours
1 whole chicken 3-4 1/2 lbs
4-5 medium carrots
4 medium parsnips or 2 large
4 celery ribs
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
2 4-5 inch sprigs rosemary or thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bunch chard
1 teaspoon whole pepper corns
sea salt to taste
First, you make a rich stock and for this you don’t need to trim the vegetables as you’ll be discarding them after the first cooking time. Cut the onion (without peeling) into 4 pieces and place in a large soup pot. Wash, but don’t peel or trim 2 of the carrots, cut into 2″ chunks and add to the pot. Peel and crush the garlic, add to pot. Wash and cut 2 of the parsnips and 2 of the celery ribs, cut into 2″ chunks and add. Put in 1 of the bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, the rosemary or thyme sprigs, the peppercorns and the chicken, whole, into the pot. Add enough water to mostly cover the chicken. Place on stove and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered until the chicken is just falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours, with the occasional stir. (This is when you can go snuggle up with a book on the couch.)
-When the chicken is done, carefully remove it from the pot and put onto a large plate to cool-I generally use a combination of spatulas and spoons for this operation and it always falls apart so I have to go fishing back in for the pieces that return to the soup. This isn’t important, just get all of the chicken onto the plate without losing too much broth in the process.
Leave the chicken to cool and strain the broth off into another large pot or heatproof container. Discard all the vegetables from your original pot and give it a quick rinse if necessary. (This is when I’m grateful for our Seattle yard waste. You don’t have to feel bad throwing away those veggies as they will be transformed into useful compost someday!)
-Dice the remaining onions, trim and slice the remaining carrots, parsnips and celery into 1/2″ pieces. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to your soup pan over med-high heat. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and sauté without browning until onions are softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. While onions are cooking, wash your chard and remove ribs. Chop or tear leaves into bite size pieces and set aside. When onions are close to done, add carrots, celery, 2nd bay leaf and parsnips and sauté another 5 minutes or so. Carefully pour the broth into the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer covered for another 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and mostly done.
-After 20 minutes, add the chard and while the chard is cooking, remove the chicken meat from your now cooled chicken. Discard bones and non-meaty parts.
-After about 10-15 minutes, your chard should be cooked. Taste your broth and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and a few grinds of pepper to taste. Gently stir in your chicken and let rest or simmer a few minutes to warm the chicken to your liking.
Serve with a few slices of hearty bread and enjoy!
Variations include: adding rice and tomatoes and substituting cilantro for the chard for a more Mexican soup feel, adding cooked white beans, adding noodles near the end to cook in the broth or any other notion you think of to make it the chicken soup of your rainy day dreams.