Last week, I spent the better part of two days holed up in my barely furnished room, watching TV on my laptop—because apparently, nothing says, Welcome to Nashville!, like a stomach bug that knocks every shred of every thing out of your body in the course of one evening—and the whole time, there was one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about: homemade chicken soup.
You know what I mean when I say homemade chicken soup, right? I don’t mean chicken soup from a can or even packaged chicken broth that you add vegetables to, or using the best soup maker machine you own. I mean roast-your-own-chicken-and-turn-it-into-stock soup. The kind that is soothing and comforting. The kind that is loaded with nutrients. The kind that “puts vigor in the step and sparkle in love life” to quote folklore.
I’ve tried to make my own stock before with bad results. I actually remember an entire conversation Jacqui and I had about this: not enough flavor, not what we expected, what were we doing wrong? But it was just a month or two ago that I made it with great results: rich, flavorful, perfect for adding vegetables and rice to. Now this is kind of my go-to version, and exactly what I was craving. The key seems to be the same thing that changes relationships, careers, opinions, and experiences: time.
As soon as I had the strength to leave the house and visit a local grocery, I bought a chicken, a bag of carrots, a bag of celery, and an onion. And the next morning, I set to work, putting the chicken in the oven as soon as I woke up.
The carcass and pan drippings went into a pot that afternoon, covered with water and, here’s what’s so important: given hours and hours to cook down. By evening, that chicken-submerged water had become darker, thicker, much more akin to the stuff you expect to see when you think of chicken stock. And, most importantly, strained and combined with vegetables and shredded chicken, it was perfection: pure comfort in a bowl.
I ate it for three days straight.
Homemade Chicken Soup
Serves six to eight.
One whole roasting chicken (organic, farm-raised is better)
Butter/oil, salt/pepper for roasting the chicken
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
6 to 8 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
Roast chicken (using a recipe like this or this or your own). After eating most of the meat, reserve some for the soup (I like to eat the white meat and save the dark meat for the soup), and place the leftover carcass and pan drippings in a large stock pot (I used my 3.5-ounce Le Creuset). Fill with enough water to cover the chicken carcass (you can break apart the body if you need to). Heat until the water just bubbles, and let it simmer for six to eight hours. The longer you cook it, the richer your stock will be. After cooking, drain stock.
Combine stock (I actually put half in the freezer because it’s so thick at this point, and then added extra water to what was left) with carrots, onions, celery, and chicken. Generously salt and pepper to taste. Add herbs if you like.