kosher kitchen

Practical, medicinal, tasty: The art of chicken soup


Maimonides said, “No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.” That makes a lot of sense, especially given what we know about food today. Over-processed foods are bad; foods in their natural states are better. Michael Pollan, author of many books on food, said, “Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.” More good advice. Plants have properties that are healing and healthful, but other foods also have healing properties, and one has been a staple of Jewish Shabbat and holiday meals for many centuries.

In the 12th century, Maimonides, a renowned physician, wrote about the treatment of asthma and the foods someone with that illness should and should not eat. He advised chicken soup for someone with asthma or other breathing difficulties. The soup should be made from “rue, beets and chicken, with or without beans.” Maimonides also said that broth made from a hen could “neutralize the body’s constitution,” whatever that meant.

Maimonides tapped into the healing powers of soup long before modern medical research confirmed the medicinal power of “Jewish penicillin.” While any hot soup will help someone with a cold feel better, chicken soup will loosen secretions and soothe sore throats. Recent research has shown that the broth has some anti-inflammatory properties which may make you feel better.

But soup was not used just for medicinal purposes. Centuries ago, chicken soup became a common food in the shtetels where Jews lived. The broth could feed a crowd and offer nutrition for those without teeth, babies and elders and, of course, those who were ill. It was also a thrifty dish — the meat was eaten at one meal and the bones and remaining bits of flesh were cooked in water with vegetables, potatoes, beans and herbs for hour after hour, resulting in a delicious additional meal of hearty soup. The long cooking resulted in what is now called “bone broth,” a new craze among health food aficionados.

It seems that Maimonides was on to something back in the 12th century!

No matter what soup you make, the advent of winter is bound to bring on colds and coughs It’s time to get out the soup pot and make some soup to help your families through the latest “bug” or simply for a delicious meal on a cold, dark, night.

Chicken Bone Broth (Meat)

This is the first step to my Three-Day Chicken Soup Recipe. I make this broth often and freeze it in single quart containers for up to 6 months.

4 pounds chicken frames

2 pounds chicken wings and gizzards

2 to 4 dark colored onions, ends trimmed, loose skins removed, the rest left on for golden color

3 to 4 ribs of celery, cut into inch-long pieces

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into inch-long pieces

2 to 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into inch-long pieces

2 leeks, white and light green only, trimmed and washed, cut into 3-inch pieces

1/2 to 1 tsp. peppercorns, to taste

OPTIONAL: 1 small bunch dill and/or parsley, bound together with kitchen twine

NOTE: You can add salt, but I prefer to salt the broth when I use it in a recipe.

NOTE: You can skip the roasting step if you want. The taste is a bit different, but I often skip the roasting part when feeling a bit pressed for time.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the chicken frames, wings and gizzards on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until golden, but not burned in any places. It is better that the chicken be lighter than burned.

Place the cooked chicken, and the rest of the ingredients in a 12-qt. stockpot and cover with at least 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a strong simmer, and cook for 1 hour, skimming off any foam as needed. Reduce heat to a steady, but lower, simmer and cook, mostly covered, for 12-15 hours, adding more water if needed. For overnight cooking, make sure the soup is simmering for temperature safety.

Turn off heat and let cool. Using a slotted spoon, remove solids to a bowl, draining as much liquid as possible. I let the soup cool a bit and then I use doubled food prep gloves to squeeze any solids over the pot before discarding. Discard all solids (My family loves to eat the carrots). Strain the soup through a cheesecloth lined, fine strainer into quart-sized containers. Cover tightly and freeze. Or place into a larger container and refrigerate if using within 2 to 5 days. Makes 8 to 10 quarts.

Chicken and Garlic Soup (Meat)

This is very garlicky — or not. You can use less of the fresh garlic if you like. The garlic cooked in the soup is milder.

5 to 6 quarts water

4 whole boneless & skinless chicken breasts PLUS

4 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs (OR use a whole cut up chicken/pullet)

15 to 25 cloves peeled garlic

6 to 8 carrots, thinly sliced

6 to 8 stalks celery, thinly sliced

2 large whole onions, peeled

10 additional cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup canola oil

3 tbsp. unbleached flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Place the water in a 10 to 12 quart soup pot. Place the garlic cloves in a mesh herb bag or in cheesecloth and tie tightly. Add to the pot along with the chicken, carrots, celery, and onions. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 3-5 hours.

Remove the chicken and let cool. Skim any excess fat from the broth and discard or refrigerate for another time. Uncover the pot and let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes to reduce by about 1/4. Remove the whole onions and discard or chop to put back into the soup. Remove the bag with garlic cloves and let cool. Pour into a bowl and mash well to create a smooth puree. Set aside.

Heat a small frying pan over low heat and add the canola oil. Add the fresh, minced garlic and sauté until lightly golden. Add the mashed garlic and mix to blend. Sprinkle the flour on the garlic and mix constantly until smooth and well blended. Slowly add a ladle of the chicken broth and whisk until smooth and thick. Add more broth until the mixture is the smooth consistency of heavy cream. Whisk the mixture back into the soup and let simmer.

Cut or shred the cooled chicken and add back to the soup. Heat until the chicken is heated through. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve. Serves 8+.

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup with Shallots and Chives (Dairy)

This is an easy, lower- fat or decadent, creamy, version of potato soup that uses shallots for fuller flavor.

4 to 6 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly

1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 to 1 stick butter

2 to 3 medium onions, diced

6 to 10 shallots, diced

3 pounds white potatoes, peeled, cut into half- inch cubes

2 quarts vegetable broth

3 cups whole milk, or half-and-half

salt and white pepper to taste

4 tbsp. finely minced fresh chives

OPTIONAL: 4-6 tbsp. white wine or sherry

Sour cream or plain, Greek yogurt, to taste

Cut up the leeks and place in a large bowl of cold water. Swish to remove any sand. Drain completely. Set aside. Heat a large soup pot and add the oil and butter. Sauté the onions, shallots and leeks until they begin to soften and turn very lightly golden. Add the vegetable broth and the potatoes and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are very soft.

Use an immersion blender and process the soup until it is thick and creamy, adding the milk or half and half as you process the soup. Add seasonings and wine, if desired, and heat until just barely simmering. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Garnish with minced chives. Serves 8+.