There are few other dishes that hold the same mythology as chicken soup. It’s a magical elixir, sure to cure anything that ails you. If you don’t believe it, just ask your mother.
While its medicinal qualities may be a bit exaggerated, it’s hard not to feel better when sipping a flavorful spoonful of chicken soup made from scratch.
Homemade chicken soup starts with a good broth, and whenever possible, I make my own.
It’s easy to do: Just submerge a whole chicken, along with onions, carrots, celery, parsnips and a few other aromatic ingredients in water and let them all gently simmer until the chicken becomes tender and its flavor has concentrated in the broth.
I like to put a pinch of ground turmeric in my broth, just enough to give it a golden hue. Since turmeric is considered an über-healthy supplement to your diet, it seems like a natural addition to this “liquid penicillin.”
You don’t have a couple of spare hours to let your broth simmer? No worries; you can always replace the homemade broth with low-sodium store-bought chicken broth and shredded rotisserie chicken. Will it be as good as one made completely from scratch? Honestly, no. Will it be better than anything you can buy pre-made? Yes, without a doubt.
Now that you have the broth and a generous amount of chicken, the foundation of your soup is done. All you need to do at this point is decide what else will be swimming alongside that chicken in your soup bowl. It can be as easy as noodles and maybe some sliced carrots and celery. Or you can give it a springtime vibe by adding baby spinach, leeks and sugar snap peas, as I’ve done in this week’s Spring Chicken Noodle Soup.
However you choose to fill your bowl, unless you plan to eat it all in one sitting, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
First, noodles will continue to soak up the broth for as long as they sit in it. That’s the reason leftover chicken noodle soup tends to be thicker, with less broth and mushy noodles. So when I’m planning on eating only a portion of the soup, I cook the noodles separately and add some to my bowl, ladling the hot soup over the top. Then I just boil more noodles the next time I want some soup. Problem solved.
I do the same thing with any soft vegetables, such as spinach and sugar snap peas, that can be overcooked and lose their vibrant color in the chilling and reheating process. To avoid drab green veggies, I add only what I need the first time around and fish them out of the soup as I’m ladling it into the bowls. The rest I save to cook in the leftover soup as I’m reheating it the next day or so.
Once the soup is cooked and ready to go, I like to add a splash of lemon juice as a finishing touch. I often do this with soup, as it brightens the flavor and often makes re-seasoning with more salt and pepper unnecessary. The point is to let the chicken and vegetables shine, which is easy to do when you’re the one stirring the pot, instead of opening a can.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.