Cinda Chavich shares her grandma’s delicious chicken soup recipe and three variations for the perfect cozy meal.
By Cinda Chavich
The warm, soothing aroma of chicken broth simmering in the kitchen is a universal comfort, whether your family background links you to steamy bowls of ramen or classic matzo ball soup. And when winter arrives, along with its chilly temperatures and flu season, chicken soup is always welcome.
I don’t know if it’s only the memories of my grandmother’s chicken soup, loaded with her tender hand-cut egg noodles, but when I need some TLC, I turn to chicken noodle soup or other clear, flavourful broths made by simmering bones, savoury vegetables and aromatics to slowly extract all of their inherent goodness.
I always make my own bone broth when we’ve roasted a whole chicken or turkey. There’s usually a container or two in the freezer in case of emergency, from a low- energy day to a full-blown flu.
Though I rarely take the time to roll out homemade egg noodles like my grandmother did, I always seek out the best facsimile — a bag of dried Polish or Hungarian soup noodles from a specialty food shop like the Cook & Pan Polish Deli & Cafe.
Making chicken soup is easy; it only requires a few simple ingredients and a little bit of time.
- 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), skin removed, or about 3 to 4 pounds bones (chicken backs and wings)
- 1 large onion, cut into wedges
- 2 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled and cut into large batons
- 1 large parsnip, peeled or scrubbed and cut into batons
- 3 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
- 4-5 peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 sprigs of dill (optional)
- 2 sprigs Italian parsley
- 1/2-3/4 cup of dried small egg noodles
If using raw bones, brown them with a tablespoon of oil over medium heat in your stockpot. For extra colour in the stock, brown the onions and carrots, too.
Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and sweat for an additional 10 minutes. If not browning ingredients, place the chicken or bones and remaining ingredients, except for the egg noodles, in a large stockpot and cover generously with cold water.
You’ll need 10 to 12 cups of water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, skimming off any of the foam that rises.
Cover and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and vegetables, straining the stock through a fine mesh strainer, and returning it to the pot.
At this point, you can keep the chicken and vegetables warm, covered in a low oven to serve separately, or remove the meat from the bones to add back to the soup later.
Return the stock to a simmer and reduce slightly to concentrate the flavour. Skim any excess fat that rises to the top of the broth. Add egg noodles and simmer until tender.
Alternatively, you can the cool stock quickly and freeze to use later. Serves 4. Makes about 2 quarts of chicken stock.
Asian: Add ginger and garlic (maybe even dried shiitake mushrooms, Szechuan peppercorns or star anise) while you’re simmering your soup and a splash of soy sauce or Vietnamese fish sauce to season it. There is a great chicken soup stock for soba noodles, ramen or rice noodles with bean sprouts and basil.
Mexican: Season your chicken soup with a jalapeño chili and serve topped with shredded chicken, chopped avocado, diced tomato, chopped onion, cilantro and strips of crisply fried corn tortillas. Season with lime juice and sprinkle with shredded queso or mozzarella.
Italian: Add the heel/rind of a piece of Parmesan cheese to your simmering chicken broth for extra flavour (discard before serving) and stir in cooked white beans, chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, tiny orzo pasta and chopped basil.