By Barbara Beltrami
Everybody knows that chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food, the ultimate panacea for those times when the body and soul need pure nourishment. I wish I could tell you that chicken soup will prevent you from contracting the coronavirus. It won’t. I wish I could tell you that if you do get it, it will cure you. It won’t. All I can tell you is that cooking it, storing it in the fridge or freezer to have on hand and warm up, sipping and savoring it, sending some to a sick family member, friend or neighbor will make you feel better.
And when your soup is done and you’ve picked all the meat from the bones, even after you’ve saved big chunks of it for the soup, there are so many things you can use the remaining chicken for. My favorite is a chicken chowder, just another kind of chicken soup, really, with a creamy base. So wash your hands for 20 seconds, make a vat of chicken soup, practice social distancing and stay safe and well.
YIELD: Makes 3 quarts
One 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken
1 large onion, halved but not peeled
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 to 3 celery ribs with leaves
1 sprig fresh dill
1 parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 quarts water
6 to 8 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
In a large stockpot, combine first 8 ingredients. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer so liquid is barely bubbling. Cook until meat falls from bone and bones separate, about two hours. With slotted spoon remove meat and bones, place in large bowl and set aside. Into another large pot or bowl strain liquid, pressing all solids to extract as much juice as possible.
Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Transfer liquid to container(s), cover tightly and refrigerate or freeze. Pull meat away from bones; discard skin, bones and gristle. Place meat in separate container(s), cover and refrigerate or freeze; once it is chilled, skim any hardened fat from top of liquid, strain again.
One hour before serving, reheat broth, add the fresh carrots and cook, covered, over low heat. Serve with noodles or rice and some of the chicken meat, if desired. Reserve remaining broth and meat for other use or freeze in containers. Serve with noodles or rice.
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 to 4 cups diced cooked chicken meat
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs with leaves, finely chopped
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Coarse salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chicken stock
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
One-10-ounce package frozen corn
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
Place a large pot over medium – high heat; add two tablespoons of the butter and the oil. When butter is melted add chicken and stir frequently until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes; remove and set aside. Lower heat to medium; add onion, celery, thyme, bay leaf and salt and pepper; stir to coat with seasoning. Sauté, stirring once or twice, until veggies soften, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot; add stock, potatoes and corn, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaf and discard.
In a small saucepan; make a roux with remaining butter and flour. With the large pot still on simmer, stirring constantly with wire whisk, add milk, half and half and roux gradually to achieve thick smooth consistency. Serve immediately with oyster crackers or saltines and a tossed green salad.