The best family memories are often woven through the foods we eat. Traditional holiday meals. Birthdays. Celebrations. And even funerals. Our family recipes tie generations to each other, creating a gastronomical photo album to be shared, cherished and of course, bragged about.
My “Nana’s” chicken soup is one of those cherished family recipes. The aroma brings back memories of my three siblings and I seated on phone books around her gleaming formica kitchen table, waiting for those steaming bowls of soup (with matzoh balls of course!). As an adult, my mother took on the chicken soup work for major family meals with my Nana testing, helping. As my home became the place to be for Passover, with great tribulation and a sense of awe at what I was doing, I took it on too.
Have you tried to document your grandmother’s recipes? “Well, sweetie, it was about a pinch of this, a smidgeon of that…”! My fear of failure demanded measured amounts so that I didn’t let my family down. My own children were lucky enough to have enjoyed their own bowls of chicken soup at my Nana’s table…..what if mine wasn’t good enough???
I lost my Nana just after she turned 96, sharp as a tack till the day she died and still coaching me on her best recipes. I lost my mom five years ago in a more unexpected way and suddenly my siblings and I were left to carry on the traditions, love, support and yes, the recipes. We are lucky to have documented many of them and have learned that our role is not just to mimick but to add a little of our own personalities….a pinch of this, a smidgeon of that.
Nana’s Chicken Soup
1 young fryer chicken (not one of those oven-stuffer roasters but a nice young fryer with more flavor; with all giblets except liver)
2 yellow onions
3-5 carrots (with green tops still on if possible)
3-4 celery ribs (also with green leafy tops if possible)
½ bunch of fresh dill weed, rinsed
¼ bunch of fresh curly parsley, rinsed
¾ - 1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
noodles – optional – to be cooked separately
Rinse chicken inside and out – dispose of liver but keep neck, gizzard
Put chicken and giblets in a stock pot and just cover with cold water (if you put in too much more water, your soup will be too diluted)
Cut off ends and peel your carrots and parsnip, cut into chunks and add to soup – include at least a little of the carrot greens
Cut onions into quarters and add to soup
Rinse celery and cut into chunks (including some greens) and add to soup
Add parsley and dill weed, salt and pepper
Bring to gentle boil and skim soup, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until chicken is tender and falling off the bone
Allow soup to cool somewhat, then carefully remove chicken, discarding bones and carcass and reserving only the meat.
Carefully ladle the soup through a strainer, straining out everything except the best chunks of carrot, parsnip (if you like it – we love it!) and some bits of onion
Return the chicken meat to the soup with the chunks of vegetables
At this point, the soup is ready to eat although the best case is to allow the soup to cool and chill fully overnight and then skim the fat from the soup before serving, creating a lovely, clear and heavenly soup.
If you want noodles in your soup, prepare them separately and add after the soup is strained. If you cook them in the soup, they will absorb much of the broth!
If you are a lover of matzoh balls, that’s another family secret and will be considered for a future blog!