Everybody needs to be Jewish-mothered sometimes. I hate it when my boyfriend gets sick, but I love taking care of him. Maybe it’s unfeminist of me. I don’t want to have kids or ever get married, but the Jewish-mother gene is strong, and there is something in me that just wants to make you chicken soup.
And even though I’m creative and believe in cultural exploration and nontraditional personal fulfillment, chicken soup has to be made a certain way. I don’t want any parsley. Get out of here with that wild rice. Don’t even talk to me about bouillon. When it comes to chicken soup, I’m a traditionalist.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t complicated, difficult, or even time-consuming. The best part is it’s cheap as heck. You don’t have to get any special condiments or exotic produce. You make it with four ingredients, which happen to be about the cheapest things in the store: chicken, carrots, onions, celery. Dinner for a couple of nights for two people: $5.
Purely optional: a bland, comforting starch. Egg noodles, alphabet noodles, white rice. For the purpose of this story, we are not talking about matzo balls. That is a whole different story, and one that, for now, I will leave to the real Jewish mothers.
If noodles or rice are too exotic to add to your soup, you could alternately serve it with toast. Preferably rye toast. Normally I would advocate buttering said toast with real butter over any of that Earth Balance crap, but you know that back in the old country (Illinois) no legit Jewish mother would serve buttered toast with chicken soup — it would be margarine. So to this I say hey, to each her own. I use butter, but don’t tell my rabbi.
Don’t start with chicken broth or bouillon. You don’t need it. Don’t use boneless skinless breasts. Don’t cook chicken separately and add it into bone and neck stock and front like people won’t be able to tell.
The aforementioned (goyish! uninitiated!) boyfriend was surprised that I wasn’t using store-bought broth. He didn’t believe that chicken, water, and a couple of vegetables would turn into flavorful soup. Oh ye of little faith, what do you think they make chicken broth out of? Watch and learn.
He watched, and he learned, and he acquiesced, and he dragged his butt into bed at 8 p.m. He woke up feeling shiny and new. He says it was the 12 hours of sleep. I say please, you know it was the Jewish Mother Chicken Soup.
2 to 3 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 to 4 raw chicken pieces with bone and skin (breasts, thighs, etc.; if you’re making a bigger pot, you can do a whole cut-up chicken)
Salt and pepper
Egg noodles or white rice (optional)
Cut the veggies into a few big pieces. Throw them in a medium-sized pot with the chicken and fill the rest of the pot with water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for maybe 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the broth; let the meat rest for a few minutes on a plate, until it’s cool enough to shred from the bone. Return the chicken to the soup (minus the skin and bones) and heat a few minutes; serve.
If you’re using noodles or rice, add them in the last 10 or 20 minutes of cooking, respectively.
You can then take any leftover soup and do other stuff with it. Use the broth to cook pinto beans or rice or other soups. Use the meat in tacos or casseroles.
Related recipe: Jewish Mother Chicken Soup
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