I’ve been making chicken soup for years now, ever since my son was little. He got sick all the time, and when that happened, I’d think, Uh oh, better get to Trader Joe’s and pick up some ingredients for soup. Also, it was our go-to meal when we’d travel, especially when my son was so young.
I love soups because it has the carbs, veggies, and protein all there in one bowl. But I’ve probably cooked chicken soup more than any other meal to the point where I feel pretty sick of it. I’ve done the simple version, which is buying the chicken broth, throwing chicken breasts in there and adding 2 of the mirepoix (diced carrots, celery and onion) mixes from TJ’s. I’d also do it from scratch with the whole chicken. But you know what I realized? I like the Korean (or Asian?) version much more than the ones with the carrots and celery. I don’t like the carrots because they make the soup too sweet, and I don’t like the celery because it’s too stringy sometimes. Or, like I said, maybe I’m just sick of the whole thing.
My mother-in-law’s savory version is the best. First, you cut off the skin of the chicken using scissors, and then peel and pull the skin off. Yes, it’s pretty gross to do, but I actually like chicken soup without the skin better. It gets rid of that greasy feeling, and all you’re left with is a ton of flavor if done right. Then you put the skinless chicken in the pot, cover it with water, throw in a peeled onion, two-inch piece of ginger (peel it with a spoon), and a bunch of garlic cloves. Then you boil that thing for 60 minutes so that the chicken is falling off the bone. Probably do the thing where you get it to a boil and then lower the temperature for 60 min. Also, make sure to sweep off the scum (the gray foam) after the first boil.
Take the whole chicken out. Let it cool a bit. Then shred the chicken off the bone. A whole chicken from TJ’s is about 4 lbs. That’s way more chicken than you need for a soup, so I’ll save about 1/2 the chicken meat for when I make stock. To make chicken stock, I’ll put the onion-garlic-ginger and now chicken bones into another pot, fill it with water, and put it up to boil, then down to a low simmer for about 3 hours. The best thing about a whole chicken is that it is the gift that will keep on giving.
Back in the other pot is the 60 min broth. I take the chicken meat and chop it up real good, and toss it with a bunch of chopped green onion (I’m on the belief that there can never be enough green onion in soups. I definitely like to push it), salt and pepper it like crazy, add some sesame oil (a little goes a long way, it’s mostly for the flavor), mix it with my hands, and then throw it into the pot with the broth. Add a few teaspoons of salt to the soup (1-3 teaspoons, maybe more). Then soup is done. Add some hot brown rice to it, and you’ll have the most flavorful, savory comfort food ever.
Once the chicken stock in the other pot is done three hours later (you can keep simmering up to 5 hours but who has the time? you can also add more water if the water boils off), I take out everything from the stock (chicken bones, onions, garlic, ginger) and toss them. Then I put the stock into glass containers and freeze it. I’ll also freeze the other 1/2 of the chicken meat in a plastic bag. Then later down the line, I have another batch of chicken soup ready to go.
This takes a few hours of tending, but it’s not hard, just time consuming. And you have just given yourself a whole bunch of food.
*You could omit making the chicken stock. It will make the whole process a lot easier, but I can’t walk away from chicken bones that would make perfectly good stock. My greed and dislike of wasting food gets in the way.
**I like the boil those Trader Joe’s English peas in a separate pot for something like 90 seconds and then scoop them into individual bowls of soup before serving. Somehow boiling peas in the soup broth has a smell I very much dislike.