Homemade Classic Chicken Soup

While Labor Day always feels like the unofficial first day of fall, and while the weather here has been mild, sometimes even cold, since August, this Sunday is the official first day of Fall.  It’s well known that it’s my favorite season.  Warm colors agree with me, as do scarves, boots, and multiple layers.  I bought my “fall jacket,” I have an apple picking trip planned, and the trees outside my apartment window are starting their slow, ombre crawl into brilliance.
This time of year always feels exciting.  It’s when I feel the most motivated to get up and do.  I feel inspired to start new projects, rejuvenate some goals that may have fallen by the wayside (see: health goals 2013.  Definitely needs rejuvenating), and get outside and explore.  Fall is my energizer.  Plus, school supplies.  I’ve spoken about this at length.

I like Fall foods best, too.  Cheesy casseroles with crunchy toppings, food cooked low and slow until meltingly tender, and soul-warming soups, which admittedly I crave year-round, are what my food dreams are made of.  Sure, tomato season is definitely a highlight of the year, but when I start feeling that first crisp breeze that is uniquely Autumn, a switch is flipped and I only want steaming bowls of comfort.  It’s like clockwork.  Or, you know, seasonal.

Chicken soup absolutely qualifies as Fall comfort food.  Chicken soup done right is unrivaled, but bad chicken soup is really bad.  I wanted a really good, wholesome, healthy bowl of chicken soup.  I did not want gummy noodles or tough chicken and watered down broth.  The only way to make really good chicken soup is to make it yourself, and the only way to have really great chicken soup is to make your own stock.  It sounds complicated and long, but not to worry, I’ve got a trick.

Let’s get started.

Chicken soup starts with chicken, obviously.  You could roast your own chicken and start there, but I know someone who makes the most delicious roasted chicken and is willing to let me have some!  The grocery store.  The grocery store rotisserie chicken is the trick to really good, homemade stock while still cutting a few corners.  I’m all about that.
Pull all of the meat off the bones and set it aside.  Reserve all of the bones, skin, and other nobby bits in a separate container (I think the rotisserie chicken container works well).  Put a lid on the chicken meat and put it in the refrigerator until you need it.
Next, put a little bit of olive oil at the bottom of a large stock pot and heat over medium heat.  Add all the bones and such to the stock pot and stir around until fragrant, just to get some color on those pieces.
After that gets some color, add a large onion cut in half, skin on, some carrots cut in half, unpeeled, and some celery stalks.  The point is, just throw it all in there.  No need to chop or dice or peel.  Easy, see?
Cover with 10 cups of water then add about 5 or 6 black peppercorns and some sprigs of fresh thyme.
Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Let it simmer for at least 2 hours, or up to 4.
Set up a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain the stock.  Discard all the stuff, and set the stock aside.
This makes a lot of stock, and you could make chicken soup, or you could transfer it to air-tight containers and keep it for future use.  It’s really super easy and completely hands-off, so keep that in mind next time you roast a chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken.  Homemade stock is never a bad thing.

If you’re making chicken soup, though, you’ll want to prep the rest of your ingredients.  It’s very much like the ingredients for stock, except we’re adding potatoes, and now you’ll want to slice and dice.
Dice an onion, two carrots, and two celery stalks.  Throw them in that same stock pot with a little olive oil and sauté until translucent but not browned.

Add minced garlic and cubed potatoes and stir around for a minute more, then add the roast chicken and cover with the homemade chicken stock.  Add salt at this point, to taste.
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.  Add some chopped fresh parsley at the very end for a nice dose of freshness.

Serve with some toasted bread.  It’s soup, you have to have crusty, toasted bread.
You guys, this is great chicken soup.  It’s so incredibly simple and tastes just like you’d want chicken soup to taste; no glitz, no add ins, it’s just great chicken soup.  It tastes like home and sweater weather and a crisp breeze.  It also tastes like chicken.  Pure chicken.
The potatoes are a nice substitute to gummy, overcooked noodles and the vegetables are tender without being mushy.  The broth is complex, deep in flavor and really is the star.
We had it for dinner one night then ate chicken soup for lunch all week.  Like most soups and stews, it gets better with age.  The flavors meld and intensify and with a lot of fresh cracked black pepper and some more fresh parsley, you won’t find a better weekday lunch.  It’s worlds better than that stuff you warm up in a can.
You should make a big pot this weekend and celebrate Fall.  You will not regret it, I promise.

Happy Fall, friends!  Here’s the recipe.

Homemade Classic Chicken Soup

Ingredients
For the Homemade Stock:

  • 1 rotisserie or roast chicken, meat picked and reserved.  Bones, skin, and other bits reserved, too
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut in half, skin on
  • 3 carrots, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in half
  • 5-6 peppercorns
  • Fresh Thyme (I just cut off a handful from my plant outside, but if I were measuring, it was probably like 8 sprigs)
  • 10 cups water

For the Chicken Soup

  • Reserved pulled chicken
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5-6 red potatoes, cubed
  • Homemade Stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh Parsley

Method

For the Homemade Stock

  1. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add chicken bones and bits and cook until fragrant and a little browned.  Add onion, carrots, celery, peppercorns, and fresh thyme.  Cover with water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 2 hours, or up to 4.
  2. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain the stock.  Discard the bones and vegetables and reserve the stock.  Save for Homemade Classic Chicken Soup or store in air-tight containers for future use.

For the Chicken Soup

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until soft but not browned.  Add garlic and potatoes and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute more.  Add reserved chicken meat and cover with homemade stock.  Salt and pepper, to taste.  (You didn’t salt the stock on purpose so you can control the amount of stock later, so don’t forget this step or you’ll have bland soup).
  2. Bring soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.  At the end, add a whole bunch of fresh parsley and serve with more black pepper and toasted bread.

Enjoy!

 

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