Healthy and fresh, with a surprising amount of flavor
I’ve never been a fan of chicken soup for a very specific reason. When growing up and home sick from school my mom, like any good mother of the era, served me Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I’m not going to bash Campbell’s! Their soups make casseroles divine! And if nothing else, a benefit of the Covid crisis has been a revival of the company that was about to go bankrupt. Suddenly, everyone wants Campbell’s Soup!
But … even now when I even smell that distinctive flavor of Campbell’s classic Chicken Noodle Soup, I almost throw up. It makes me think of being wracked with fever and chills, and being rubbed down with alcohol (I often would get 104 or above fever when I had the flu.) The smell brings back nothing but terrible memories.
So I never made chicken soup. Yuck!
Then a couple of years ago a friend made some chicken soup for me and I had no choice but to try it. I was amazed by how good it was! It was light, fresh and healthy. Delicious. Not what I remembered.
In the intervening couple of years, I’ve been playing with various versions on my own, trying to find the perfect recipe. I think I’ve finally found it.
There are a two keys to this recipe:
– Freshest best ingredients possible (straight from the Farmer’s Market, natch)
– Taking the time initially to cook the chicken while making an incredible broth that becomes the basis for this wonderful soup.
The recipe may take a few steps and a little time, but it’s easy and you can make a lot of the elements in advance, even a day or so ahead. While I love the recipe exactly as presented, you can add any other vegetables or fresh herbs you find at the market. I’ve added a few suggestions here myself.
Give it a try! It’s killer good and made even better served over my garlic rice.
FARMER’S MARKET CHICKEN SOUP
Ingredients for Step One
1 3-4 lb chicken, skin removed (just pull it off/cut it off. If a little remains, that’s fine… but leave the skin on the wings)
2 onions, quartered, peel left on
3 carrots, unpeeled, roughly chopped
3 ribs celery and leaves, roughly chopped
2 full heads garlic, sliced horizontally about 1/4 of the way down from the top
1 lemon, halved
1 tomato, halved
2 bay leaves
10 or so stalks of thyme (Sage is also a good addition)
A handful of black peppercorns
2 or 3 cloves (you’ll never know they were there)
A couple of handfuls of any greens (kale, chard, etc)
1 Fresno Chili, halved (or pepper of some kind)
Directions for Step One
Put all the ingredients in your largest pot and fill with water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for an hour, skimming any debris that comes to the top.
NOTE: I love to use a tall pasta pot with insert here. All the ingredients go into the insert and it makes the broth so much easier to strain when ready.
After an hour, remove from heat and let cool a little. Remove the chicken from the pot; be careful, it will want to break into pieces… if it breaks apart that’s fine, just get all the pieces out. Place the chicken in a bowl to cool down.
Strain the ingredients, saving the garlic. The bulbs may have separated. Look for them. They are key. Squeeze the now soft garlic out of the skins and into a small bowl. Mash into a paste.
Strain the broth one more time through a fine sieve. I like to line the sieve with cheesecloth to make as pure a broth as possible. Dump the mashed garlic into the broth and stir. It doesn’t have to completely mix, as it will break down more in stage two.
When the chicken has cooled, take a fork and shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Leave both wings intact. The luckiest of people will get these wings in their bowl of soup.
You now have a wonderful broth and cooked shredded chicken.
Ingredients for Step Two
1 onion, sliced thin
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thick coins
3 zucchini, halved vertically, then sliced horizontally
1 Fresno Chili, halved vertically, then sliced horizontally (optional but recommended… you can remove the seeds to get the flavor but not the heat)
A large bunch of kale or chard, cut into bite sized pieces
Sliced red and/or yellow bell peppers
Directions for Step Two
(While the broth is cooking, you can start step 2.)
Sauté the onions (and Fresno and colored bell peppers, if using) in a little olive oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they become soft and are starting to caramelize. This takes a while.
Add the carrots and zucchini (and sliced mushrooms, if using.) These do not need to cook all the way through. Just go about 5 to 8 minutes more until they start to soften around the edges. Remove from the heat and reserve until the chicken and broth are done.
When your broth is drained, your chicken shredded and your vegetables sautéed, start your soup:
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot:
Add the sautéed vegetable mixture and the broth. Bring to a strong simmer, stirring.
Add the chicken with a lot of salt and pepper. Cook 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Add the greens, mixing well and continuing to cook until the greens soften.
Add the juice of one lemon (and the ginger, if using) and continue to cook, tasting, adding seasoning to your liking. Different peppercorns, ground, are a good addition, for instance, green or pink.
IN about 15 more minutes, your soup is ready! Serve over my garlic rice for even better flavor.
“TORTILLA SOUP VERSION”
If you want more of a tortilla soup, take 4 corn tortillas, slice into thin strips and add these with the greens. The tortillas will break down entirely and add another kind of wonderful flavor to the soup. You will no longer have such a clear broth nor will the soup be as light, but it sure tastes good.