The Original Soul Food

Chicken soup, more affectionately known as "Jewish penicillin," has been touted with curative powers for centuries. Beyond its health benefits, a good and golden chicken stock is delicious, aromatic, and serves as 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 this wonderful stuff, which chef 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."

So, let's proceed with "Chicken Soup 101":

· Buy the best quality chicken you can find. Bubbe's chickens were raised differently than today's chickens, which have a lot of fat and little flavor. Use lots of extra wings and backs to give body to the soup. (I like Aarons Organic Kosher Chickens, available at Trader Joe's.)

· Use pristine, earthy vegetables. Don't use this as an opportunity to clean out your vegetable bin! Leave the skins on the onions for a golden color.

· Use just enough water to cover the contents of your stock pot by 2 inches. Too much water will result in a watery stock.

· Long, slow cooking will help extract flavor from all the ingredients. Cook for at least 3 hours.

· Remove fat and skin from the chicken and peel vegetables.

· While stock is cooking, be sure to skim off the grayish foam several times until it's permanently gone. This foam will make your soup bitter and unattractive.

· Try not to allow the stock to boil; the bubbles can trap fat. Just let it simmer gently, observing tiny bubbles around the perimeter of the stock.

Chicken Stock


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
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 by no more than 2 inches.

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.

Makes about 8 cups.


Chicken–Black Bean Chowder


3 Tbsps. vegetable oil
6 scallions, trimmed and chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, deveined, and cut into thin strips
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded, deveined, and cut into thin strips
8 cups chicken stock
3 cups peeled and cubed (1-inch) winter squash, such as acorn, pumpkin, delicata, hubbard, butternut, etc.
2 cups cooked black beans
4 oz. angel-hair pasta, broken into 2-inch lengths
salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Cook scallions and chili peppers until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add stock and squash; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

Add beans and pasta; cook another 8 minutes.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with cilantro.

Serves 10.


Lentil-Chard Soup With Chicken Dumplings


For Dumplings:

1/2 lb. boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut up
2 Tbsps. oil
1/2 small onion
1/2 cup fresh (not dried) bread crumbs
1 egg, plus 1 egg white
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

For Soup:

2 Tbsps. oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb. chard
11/2 cups lentils
8 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

To Make Dumplings: Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until puréed. Chill mixture about 1 hour.

With wet hands, form into balls, using about 1 tablespoon of mixture for each. Drop into a large pot of boiling salted water.

Reduce heat and simmer until dumplings float to surface, about 12 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

To Make Soup: In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and sauté onion until soft, about 5 minutes.

Separate stems from leaves of chard and cut stems into 2-inch pieces. Add to onion and cook another 2 minutes.

Stir in lentils and stock; bring to a boil. Simmer until lentils are tender about 25 minutes.

Cut chard leaves into thin strips and add to soup. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Purée about 1 cup of soup mixture and stir into remaining soup.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Place 4 or 5 dumplings in each soup plate. Ladle soup over top.

Serves 8.


Spinach, Rice and Carrot Soup


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 comes 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.

Serves 4 to 6.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here