One time I was very sick with a cold and alone with the children. A sweet friend dropped by with a container of home made chicken soup. It was such an act of kindness It made me feel like I mattered enough for someone to take the time to cook for me. Kindness and love is at the heart of what I make in the kitchen and chicken soup clearly demonstrates that intention.
Here is my favourite soup recipe. Please be inspired to make it for someone sick or in need. It is ninety minutes start to finish and will be the best chicken soup in the world, both for the love and the taste.
- 1 tbsp of oil
- 1 whole chicken with breasts removed, cut into 2 inch pieces (see inspirational first paragraph)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 8 cups of boiling water
- 2 tsps of salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large carrot, chopped 1/4 inch thick
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 tsp of thyme
- 2 cups of cooked rice or cooked gluten free pasta of your choice
- optional, 1/4 cup of minced parsley leaves
Place the whole chicken on a cutting board and take a deep breath. We are going to cut this entire chicken into pieces to create the yummiest broth in the world. The first step is to remove the two breasts and place aside on a separate plate. Do not remove the skin. Using a large meat cleaver, or with brute strength, cut the rest of the chicken into 2 inch pieces. You will only be eating the breast meat, so you do not need to be gentle or precise with the rest of the chicken. If you have a small pile of chicken pieces in front of you – good work!
Heat the oil in a large stock pot or a Dutch oven on medium-high heat until it is simmering. Add half of the chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side. (I cover the pot with a splatter screen because I find this part a bit messy.) Place the first batch of browned chicken into a bowl and continue browning the rest of the chicken pieces, but not the breasts. Remove the second batch of chicken pieces and add them to bowl.
The chicken will not be cooked all the way through and the bottom of the pot will be sticky with brown, caramelized bits of chicken. Don’t worry, this is where all the great taste and colour comes from.
Add one of the chopped onions to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken pieces have released their juices.
Increase the heat to high and add the 8 cups of boiling water, salt, bay leaves and the two chicken breasts (remember, you put them away on a plate a few minutes ago). Once this has come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken breasts from the pot and place aside to cool. They should be cooked all the way through. Once they can be handled, remove the skin and shred the meat with a fork to make bite sized pieces of chicken.
While the chicken is cooling, strain the broth. Because we cut the whole chicken into so many pieces, you will want to make sure you are using a fine mesh strainer to remove any little pieces of bone. Press on the solids, to remove as much liquid as possible. My broth is often a golden to dark brownish, yellow colour.
Wait 5 minutes until the fat rises to the surface of the broth. Skim most of the fat off, reserving 2 tablespoons to sauté the vegetables.
Heat a frying pan or skillet with the 2 tablespoons of chicken fat and add the remaining onion, carrot and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the softened vegetables and shredded chicken to the broth, cooking until the vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the cooked rice or pasta a few minutes before serving so it warms to the temperature of the soup. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.
What I learned from trial and error: This was not originally a gluten free recipe as it used egg noodles. Egg noodles do not behave like gluten free noodles at all. When you put the uncooked gluten free pasta in the soup to cook, it created a starchy sludge, effectively ruining the texture of the soup and the beautiful broth. Pre cooking solved this problem and allowed me to control how al dente my pasta was.