This is the way my late mom, Steffi, used to cook her chicken soup: overnight for at least 12 hours, sometimes longer, until the soup turned golden, rich, and gorgeous.
The chicken, wrapped in cheesecloth, gives everything it has to the soup. It defies logic, but the meat, and even the whole vegetables that simmer alongside it, emerge in shockingly good shape. Since we kept Shabbat and had a low flame on our stove for warming food, the idea of going to sleep with a soup simmering away gives me great comfort; if it doesn’t inspire the same feelings in you (no judgment), start the soup early in the morning, turn it off before you go to bed, then let it cool overnight on the stovetop before refrigerating.
Since Yemenite hawaij — a spicy, turmeric-heavy spice blend traditionally stirred into soups that was introduced to the Israeli kitchen by Yemenite immigrants — improves everything, add some in the last few hours of cooking; it will lend the most wondrous mildly spicy flavor and sunshiny hue to your broth.
Want more Sababa recipes? Check out Adeena’s Tahini and Olive Oil Granola.
Reprinted from Sababa by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Adeena Sussman.
For the soup:
- 1 whole 3-to 4½ pound chicken*
- 6 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled
- 3 large celery stalks, halved lengthwise
- 2 medium onions, peeled but left whole
- 1 medium parsnip, trimmed and peeled
- 1 medium turnip, trimmed and peeled
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 whole bunch fresh dill, tied into a bundle with kitchen twine
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp hawaij
- one 1-inch piece peeled ginger root
- lachoh, for serving
For the hawaij:
- ¼ cup whole black peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup cumin seeds or ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp cardamom seeds or ground cardamom
- 2 Tbsp coriander seeds or ground coriander
- 3 Tbsp ground turmeric
Note: Makes 3/4 cup. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
- In a very large (at least 8-quart) stockpot*, arrange a large, overhanging double layer of cheesecloth. Place the chicken in the center of the cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth into a knot so the chicken is totally enclosed.
- Add the carrots, celery, onion, parsnip, turnip, and garlic, cover with 3 inches of cold water, bring to a vigorous boil over high heat, and boil, skimming and discarding any scum, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the dill, and cook, checking every so often that the soup is moving with very small bubbles— almost like a tide washing in—but not boiling.
- After about 2 hours, add the salt. It should taste delicious and salty, like soup should taste.
- Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for a total of 12 hours, either a whole waking day or overnight. Occasionally, skim off the fat from the top (it’s easy to do when the flame is so low; the fat pools on the top). Put that fat and broth with it in a bowl in the fridge; when it hardens, tip the bowl back into the soup; the broth slips out from underneath the disc of fat, which I use as schmaltz.
- For homemade hawaij (optional): If using whole spices, in a large, dry skillet combine the peppercorns with the cumin, cardamom, and coriander. Toast over medium-low heat, stirring, until the seeds begin to pop and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. Place the toasted spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Add the turmeric and grind until fine. (If using dried spices, toast the ground pepper, cumin, cardamom, coriander, and turmeric in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring constantly until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to a plate to cool.)
- Add the hawaij and ginger 2 hours before you’re done cooking the soup.
- When ready to serve, remove and discard the dill. Remove the chicken to a bowl, cut the cheesecloth open to help it cool, then tip any broth back into the soup. Strip off and discard the skin and cheesecloth. Take all the meat off the bones. Discard the bones.
- Portion the meat out into bowls with the broth and vegetables (leave them whole, or cut them into large pieces if you like). Season with more salt if needed. Serve with lachoh.
*If you don’t have an 8-quart pot, use a 6-quart pot. Start with a 3-pound chicken and use 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk, and 1 medium onion.