Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nana's Famous Chicken Soup

Here’s the recipe I promised you for my good chicken soup. My daughter, Gretchen, claims it will re-grow limbs. Well, I won’t go that far, but I will say I love making soup for people I care about (or downright love-to-pieces!) Even people who aren’t ill will just gobble it up anyway. It’s Louisiana good! Just be sure you have a great big pot to cook it in, or cut the recipe in half. It’s just as good either way.

A note here: This is not a “quickie meal.” The prep takes a long time, the cooking takes very little, comparatively. This is a great soup for the family to gather round on a rainy or snowy Saturday, with hot garlic bread, a fresh salad*, and some kind of pudding for dessert. Mmmm….

Nana’s Best Chicken Soup

1 pkg (about 3 #) chicken legs-and-thighs OR
the equivalent in other pieces of chicken
2 very large onions
1 1/2 # carrots
1 entire stalk of celery (the whole thing; individual pieces are called “ribs”)
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 entire head of garlic
half a bunch of curly parsley
half a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley OR
half a bunch of cilantro OR
2 Tbsps dried parsley AND
2 Tbsps dried cilantro
1 Tbsp—1/2 cup Knorr Chicken Bouillon (It will be labelled in English and in Spanish, so you know you're getting the right thing.)
ground black pepper to taste AND/OR
red pepper flakes to taste
(just remember, pepper gets stronger over time, so be careful)


Rinse the chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry. If you like the chicken skin, leave it on. I usually remove all but the smallest bits of skin and most of the fat from my chicken pieces. Do what you like. If you’re using the skin, remove it and cut it in 1” squares. Reserve. Place the chicken in your largest pot and cover it with enough water to cover twice as much chicken. For example, if your chicken can be covered with one gallon of water, use two gallons of water, okay? Sometimes I talk funny, but I think you know what I mean. If now, write me at and put the words “Chicken Soup” in the “Subject” line. I’ll get right back to you.

Okay, now, scrape or peel your carrots and cut them into 1” chunks. If they’re very thick, split the thick parts lengthways as well. Reserve them in a very large bowl. All your veggies are going to go into it.

Trim your celery, taking off any discolored parts and taking the barest bit off any broken stems. Remove the heel (which you will peel and cut into six delicious bits) and cut your celery into 1” slices as well, dropping them into a colander, not into the veggie bowl yet. Use the leaves as well. Just be sure to cut them into julienne (or small bits if you prefer.) Drop them into the colander, too, and rinse well under cold running water.

Place the now-cleaned celery into the veggie bowl. The reason you have to be so particular with celery is, when it’s growing, the growers pile earth up against the stems to “blanch” them. That comes from the French word, “blanche,” which means “white.” It’s why your celery isn’t green and bitter. If it is green and bitter, they didn’t blanche the celery when they should have done.

Smash and peel the entire head of garlic. Don’t say, “I like garlic, but not that much.” Yes, I hear you. But just do it. It’s delicious this way, and not hot or biting; just mellow and creamy and luscious---smash the garlic, okay? Trust me. Save it in a small bowl.

Now peel and chop both onions fine. Reserve them in the big bowl, too.

Using the tip of a teaspoon, scrape off the skin from about 1” to 1-1/2” of your ginger. Mince it as fine as you can make it. Put it in the little bowl and let it get friendly with the garlic. If you’re using dried parsley and cilantro, put them in, too.

If you’re using the fresh parsley/cilantro, now’s the time to trim any discolored or broken stems and wash them both thoroughly under cold running water. Chop them medium-fine and put them in their own medium bowl. They’ll be added last. We don’t want them in, yet.


By now your chicken should be boiling merrily. Turn down your heat to medium (or, if you have lots of time, medium-low, and skim the grayish stuff off the top of the seething soup-to-be. Discard it. Test your chicken from time to time. What you’re looking for is chicken that’s almost falling off the bones. When you get to that point, use your long kitchen tongs to remove the chicken pieces from the broth. Set them aside in a large bowl, pan, jellyroll pan (the kind we all call a “cookie sheet,” but it has a little rim all round.) Whatever you can use, cool the chicken parts quickly. If you have no tongs, use your kitchen fork. Just get them out, no hurry, and be careful. Don’t burn yourself.

Meanwhile, carefully add all your veggies from the big bowl to the seething broth, and add the Knorr chicken Chicken Bouillon to taste. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take any out. so start slowly and add judiciously.

While the veggies cook—don’t overcook them, whatever you do; they should be fork tender but not mushy—cut the meat off the bones into roughly 1” squares. You want it tender, because sick people ache all over, and sometimes just chewing can hurt. When you have your meat cut up, put it back into the pot and add your parsley and cilantro. Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes and turn off the heat. Correct for seasonings with more Knorr, if you like, and add the black pepper if you’re using it. Let it stand for a few minutes for the ingredients to get friendly, and serve into big soup mugs, or into bowls. This really is a tasty dish!

That’s it!

*Check out my recipe for “Surprise Salads” coming up next!