Magic Chicken Soup
We eat chicken soup every Friday night with our family Shabbat dinner. I love the idea that the kids have a savory, rich, and fragrant traditional soup every week that marks the Sabbath. I hope the smell and taste evokes deep memories for them long into the future. The kids never complain about the repetitiveness of chicken soup, in fact, they would likely complain if it isn't served. It is indeed magic soup.
The freezer is my friend.
In Cleveland, where everything is BIGGER, I have a very large soup pot. I make a gigantic pot of chicken soup about once a month. I freeze the soup in several containers which I keep in our extra freezer (yes an extra freezer for our big soup made in the big pot). In Tel Aviv, I use the freezer to keep herbs and vegetable trimmings from carrots, celery, and garlic to add to my soup. Here I have a much smaller pot, so I make it weekly and it makes just enough.
Not suitable for vegetarians.
This recipe is not suitable for vegetarians. It requires a whole chicken and potentially parts of a turkey or cow. Vegetarians can add a heaping teaspoon of savory miso paste into a mug of hot, but not boiling water and make miso soup, a decent alternative. Vegetarians, read no further!
To the butcher shop and vegetable market.
I walk to the butcher up the street and he chops me a fresh whole chicken. He sells me a beef bone, or turkey neck, whichever he has that day, that I add to the pot for richness. I boil the chicken and bones with carrots, onions, garlic, celery, a root vegetable, like a parsnip, turnip, or rutabaga, fresh thyme, parsley, and dill, procured from the small vegetable market next to the butcher shop. To the pot I add kosher salt and whole peppercorns. I boil for a few hours, pushing down the vegetables as they pop up, like whack-a-mole.
The hardest part.
The hardest part of making fresh chicken soup is the sorting and straining. It's kind of like childbirth, where you forget how hard it is and only remember the easy parts. Every week, I throw the ingredients in the pot and boil it up and think, "Gee, chicken soup is so easy to make!" But then, towards the end, I remember as though it is the first time every time, the last few laborious steps of the process. The pot is big, hot, and heavy after chicken soup is made, so it takes time to cool it. When it is cool enough to handle, which is about the time I am thoroughly exhausted, I use tongs to pull out all the cooked vegetables, herbs, bones, and what-nots left in the pot.
I separate the boiled chicken from the bones, and reserve it for other recipes, like chicken and biscuits, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, any recipe that flavorful cooked chicken can be used for. I pour the remaining broth through a strainer to pick up any of the peppercorns or tiny bits so there is a thick, clear broth left. Because I leave the peels of the onions and carrots on the vegetables (scrub them well of course) all the nutrients and deep colors are added to the soup.
I assess the mound of dirty pots, bowls, and utensils that need washing, and envision the kitchen clean of all the tools required to make this soup. "Where is that magic wand again?", I think to myself.
At this time, the kids usually come home from school and the whole apartment smells like Shabbat. I can feel their excitement for what's to come, and I am renewed with a sense of accomplishment mixed with awe. I have the power to make a living moment- corporeal, spiritual, familial, comforting, nutritious, all in a consumable consomme! Magic soup.