I believe every home cook needs a chicken soup recipe. Mine offers you a springboard of possibilities.
With a base recipe, chicken soup can be customized to nearly any heritage and flavor palate. For example, try adding pasta or beans and other herbs to veer toward Italian. Switch out the vegetables and spices again and arrive in Mexico or New Orleans. Use traditional Asian vegetables and shrimp instead of chicken (even switch to a vegetable stock if you prefer). Really, it’s whatever mood you’re in. The recipe below is for classic chicken soup.
You can also think seasonally with tomatoes and zucchini in the summer and butternut and other squash in the fall. In other words lean toward what is in season for the best flavor.
A note about the chicken. I’ve experimented with baking chicken separately and placing it in the soup at the end of cooking, as well as poaching the chicken directly in the stock. In my experience, poaching chicken within the soup always yields uneven results. Baking chicken and placing it in the soup at the end of cooking is always consistent. Enjoy! Slurp!
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Chicken Soup for the Bowl
- Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small or half of a medium yellow onion
- 6 large carrots, divided
- 5 celery stalks, divided
- 1 leek, cleaned and chopped (tough green part discarded or saved for a future stock)
- One head radicchio, escarole, kale, bok choy or other hearty “green”
- 1/2 fennel bulb
- Options: one of the following if desired: 6 baby potatoes (washed and quartered, skin on); 1/2 – 3/4 cup jasmine rice; or 1 cup small cut dried pasta
- 1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1000 ml chicken broth, about 4 cups (homemade or low sodium, but full fat store bought)
- Water, as needed to fully cover vegetables by 1/2 inch (1 cm) if broth doesn’t cover them. I typically add two cups of water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, more to taste as needed
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C) and bake chicken breasts for approximately 35-45 minutes. Remove the chicken as soon as the internal temperature reaches 160F (72C). Let breasts rest for 15 minutes, and then cut or shred into bite sized pieced. Set aside
- Prepare soffritto (aka, Mire Poix, aka “holy trinity” soup base)
- Very finely dice 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and one medium yellow onion. This is the soffritto. This is a great opportunity to practice your knife skills. Pretend you’re on a cooking show!
- While chicken is baking, heat a 4-quart or larger pot to medium. Add olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add soffritto, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and cook until onions are translucent, but not browned, and carrots and celery are soft. Add the minced garlic and ginger the last minute of sautéing. About 8 minutes total
- While soffritto is sautéing, peel and chop carrots, celery, fennel into equal bite sized pieces. If adding optional potatoes, clean and cut them as well
- Add the chicken broth to the stock pot along with the vegetables you just prepared. If the broth doesn’t cover the vegetables by about a half an inch (1 cm), add water. I added 2 cups to mine. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add the lemon juice and bay leaf
- If adding optional rice or pasta, add once you’ve dropped the heat to a simmer. Stir
- While the soup is simmering, cut your green of choice (radicchio, escarole, kale or bok choy) into 1-inch strips and set aside. Discard the core
- Simmer the soup until you can pierce a carrot easily with a knife and the pasta or rice (if added) is done. About 20 minutes simmering time total.
- Remove the bay leaf
- Add the chopped greens and stir them into the soup. Turn off the heat and cover the soup with a lid for 5 minutes. Warning: The greens won’t look all that attractive, but they are tasty and good for you
- Choices! You can either add the chopped or shredded chicken to the soup at the same time as the greens, or in each individual bowl. Sometimes I like to make a double batch of soup and keep the chicken separate. This way, one night I can place chicken in the bowls and the next night shrimp, sausage or a white fish. Keeping the chicken out of the soup allows it to be flexible for future leftovers
- Garnish with chopped celery leaves, if desired