We, the Jewish people, have some strong feelings about chicken soup. And with good reason — it’s delicious, comforting and been scientifically proven to help when you have a cold. It’s not called Jewish penicillin for nothing!
But, like cooking brisket, there are some essential rules you must follow when making chicken soup.
Forget the Chicken Breasts
Never, ever, ever try to make chicken soup with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You always want to use chicken on the bone for rich, maximum flavor. My preference is to use a whole chicken plus approximately one pound of chicken wings. I know someone people who exclusively use chicken necks, backs and thighs for their higher fat (and flavor). Chef Adam SaNagoueira even suggests using chicken feet!
Don’t Boil or Rush!
Everyone I know, from restaurant-trained chefs to Jewish grandmas, say not to boil the soup. Start with cold water, bring to a simmer and then cook it on a simmer for hours. And hours. Some people say as long as overnight. Sandra di Capua, Partner at Kelloggs NYC (and my dear friend), suggests actually filling your pot with ice, which slows down the heat process, forcing the flavor to get pulled out from the chicken and aromatics very, very slowly, which makes it even more flavorful.
Never Leave the Foam
When the soup starts to simmer, you will notice a grayish, film will appear on top. Don’t ignore this — you must skim it to avoid a cloudy soup. What is that icky, foamy stuff on top? It’s actually the proteins that have coagulated. Most people advise to skim, skim, skim, so that your soup will be clear. But according to The Kitchn, it really doesn’t impact the flavor; still, most cooks I know strongly recommend skimming off that foamy top.
Don’t Use a Soup Mix
Forget bouillon, chicken consomme mix or other packets of salty, fake flavor. True chicken soup is flavored from real ingredients like carrots, celery, turnips, dill and parsley. Some people also like to use a small piece of fresh ginger. My mother-in-law swears by yellow turnip (and her soup is truly amazing). Others suggest leaving the skin on the onion for color, or adding some sweet potato or even lemongrass. It doesn’t matter which herbs and vegetables you use: Just make sure they grew on a farm, not in a factory.
When All Else Fails, Call Your Mother
If you’re not sure about something, call your mom, mother-in-law, grandma or that
crazy lovely Jewish lady who lives up the block — they will know just what to do, or not to do.
In the mood for chicken soup? Try one of these recipes!
Classic Chicken Soup with Matzah Balls
Chicken Soup with Quinoa, Leeks and Albondigas
Lemon Chicken Soup with Swiss Chard and Rice
One Pot Chicken Soup with Seasonal Vegetables