This time-tested recipe, passed down through generations, is sure to warm your family’s hearts and bellies this holiday season.
By Rosemarie Aquilina
Photography by Derrick Martinez
You will always find chicken soup on our Christmas table, when the weather turns brisk and when anyone is ill. My mother and grandmother made essentially the same chicken soup, but there were differences. I make both versions, depending on what my children demand. Often I make the soup then divide it into three smaller soup pots: One pot where I add fine egg noodles during the last few minutes of cooking; a second pot, where I add homemade dumplings; and a third pot is mostly broth that I turn into an “egg drop soup” for my father. I always make, or have on hand, extra chicken stock or broth to accommodate everyone’s favorite version. I usually use chicken breasts. However, any parts you prefer work. Read through the recipe because you have choices!
Mom’s Chicken Soup
1 to 2 pounds chicken with skin and bones for added flavor, any parts you desire
1 large onion, peeled
1 large whole carrot, peeled, or handful small carrots
1 to 2 stalks celery
1 potato, peeled,
A few cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves, optional 8 to 10 cups chicken broth/stock/bone broth/water* plus more because as soup boils, more needs to be added. I often use half broth, half water and adjust taste.
*Better Than Bouillon or chicken bouillon cubes, add either or both with water for added flavor. Be careful to add slowly and taste, or it can get too salty.
Salt, pepper, garlic powder (the 3 Mix from previous recipes)
Rinse the chicken then place in pot. Add onion, carrot, or a handful of baby ones, celery, potato, garlic, bay leaves and any other vegetables. These are used to flavor the chicken and stock you are making.
Simmer until chicken is cooked and vegetables are soft. On medium-low heat this takes about 45 minutes, depending on size of chicken parts.While this is simmering, cut up the following into similar small sizes: 1 to 2 bunches green onions, cleaned and sliced up into the green part; 1 small yellow squash, washed, skin on, seeds sliced off, diced; 1 small green zucchini, washed, skin on, seeds sliced off, diced; 1 medium potato, peeled and diced; 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced; 1 small turnip, peeled and diced; 1 stalk celery, cleaned and diced; 1 small or large can petite diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained.
Optional: Handful of green beans, diced into ½-inch pieces. Handful of pea pods, diced into ½-inch pieces. Handful of peas.
The basics I always use are: onions, potato, carrots, celery. I like to add the rest, but my children don’t always prefer them. Use only those vegetables your family likes and don’t overdo it, as you need to have a lot of broth for the noodles, dumplings and egg drop.
Make the soup your own, adding or omitting the vegetables your family enjoys.
When the chicken and vegetables are cooked, transfer chicken to a plate and vegetables to another plate. Debone chicken and shred/cut into bite-sized pieces. Throw away the bones and skin. My mother likes to eat the cooked vegetables, as they are not returned to the soup. Carefully, pour broth through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. This helps to clarify the broth. Clean pot then return clarified broth to pot.
Place chicken pieces and vegetables you diced while chicken was simmering in the broth. Place on medium heat. When the soup boils, reduce to a simmer. Add more broth if needed. In last 5 minutes of simmering to cook the freshly added vegetables, add diced tomatoes. Do not add too many vegetables or your soup will be too thick to add noodles or dumplings. Add broth/water seasoning to taste as it boils.
When soup is finished and flavor is adjusted, divide into different pots, making sure there is enough broth in each. Decide how you want to finish it.
1. Add thin egg noodles or alphabets, dots or other small pasta shapes as desired and cook according to directions. Be careful to not add too many.
2. Whisk an egg or two in a bowl, then add in a stream into the boiling soup. This makes the egg drop version of the soup.
3. Make dumplings. Let the dough you make (see recipe below) sit for 20 to 30 minutes before you place into soup. It is important the soup is boiling and that you first dip the spoon into the soup, then into dumpling mixture. It releases easier. Dumplings will sink, and then rise to the top. They need to boil for about 10 minutes (longer if you made larger ones) until they are fully cooked.
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup room temperature butter (If you use unsalted you can add ¼ teaspoon salt, although I tend to omit the salt because the soup has salt.)
½ cup to 1 cup semolina
For color, add finely chopped fresh parsley — I don’t do this when my younger children are eating because they don’t like green things.
Place all ingredients in a bowl, beginning with ½ cup semolina then add if it is too soft. Mix all together with a fork or hand mixer. The consistency should be like a cookie dough batter — the semolina should absorb the egg and butter so it must rest at least 20 minutes. Dip teaspoon on soup then scoop up a ½ teaspoon full of batter (they grow) and drop into soup. It should come off easily. If not, push off with another teaspoon.
There is a learning curve to making dumplings. If the batter is too thick the dumplings may not float and they are thick to eat. If the batter is too soft, the dumplings fall apart and don’t hold their shape well. Regardless of which version soup you serve, sprinkle fresh parsley, finely chopped, over soup and serve.
With soup, and for any special occasion, my family enjoys popovers. My nephew, Steven, is disappointed when he doesn’t see popovers steaming from my oven. This recipe never fails and was one I learned many years ago from Williams-Sonoma. They are pretty served in a bread basket with a colorful cloth napkin underneath. You can use the Williams-Sonoma popover pans or muffin tins. If you use the popover pans, there are two sizes. I prefer the smaller size. I always serve with flavored butters.
Serves 24 mini popovers
4 cups milk, at room temperature (whole, or 2%)
8 eggs, at room temperature
3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt or salt substitute
Note: If you prefer, you can add fresh herbs or other spices and leave or omit vanilla. I tend to leave in the vanilla because I think it enhances everything.
Position oven rack in the center. Place popover pans or muffin tins in the oven. Preheat to 375 F. While pans and oven heat, make batter.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until just warm to the touch. Or you can microwave it, until warm.
In large mixing bowl with electric stand or hand mixer beat eggs, flour, butter, vanilla, salt and warm milk until just blended. Beat for about a minute once all ingredients are blended. There shouldn’t be any lumps. If there are, you can strain the batter.
Wearing oven mitts, remove popover pans and spray with nonstick cooking spray or brush with butter. Divide the batter between the cups. You will fill each cup about 3/4 full.
Place in center rack of heated oven. Do not open oven for 40 minutes. Popovers will be golden. With sharp knife quickly slice into each to let steam out.
Place a ½ stick butter at room temperature in small bowl.
Leave plain and place in thin silicone seasonal shape, using butter knife or frosting knife. Place in freezer for about 5 minutes till firm. Pop out and serve or place in airtight container for later use.
To flavor, add to ½ cup butter (unsalted or salted or half of each) your choice of the following below, or make up your own. Blend with fork or hand mixer. Taste and adjust as preferred.
1 tablespoon, or more, to taste of dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, or some of each
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning with 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh basil + 1 teaspoon fresh parsley + ½ teaspoon garlic powder or paste (optional + fresh sage or thyme or other spices you prefer). Can use dried, to taste.
¼ cup honey
¼ cup honey + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup honey + ½ cup powdered sugar or brown sugar + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice (this can also be placed in a bowl and served immediately)
Adjust all seasonings to taste. Have fun! These butters change up recipes easily. Create your own. I’m always experimenting, especially if I have spices that are getting old. Serve on a pretty small plate with a butter knife.
Have a cooking question for Judge Aquilina? Leave your question in the comments below!
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