Family Recipes

Chicken Soup

Jennifer Keith
Springdale, AR

In a large soup pot, starting first thing in the morning (or at least by noon) Note that we never measure anything in this, it's very much by "feel". But it is also very forgiving.

1 Large Chicken (With bones) (organ meat optional)
Peeled Carrots 4-6 large, whole or halved
Celery 4-6 sticks, with leaves (adds extra tang to the broth)
White Potatoes 6-8 peeled and quartered
3-4 whole onions (remove outermost skin) White or Yellow are best, I don't love sweet or vidalia with this.
6-8 cloves of garlic
A few good grinds of fresh black pepper
Water to an inch or two below the top of the pot.

Place all items in the pot, bring to a boil. Once boiling, skim starches off top, and reduce heat to low and cover. Continue simmering for as long as you can, usually 6-8 hours. Check every hour or so to confirm water level and give it a good stir. Add water if needed.

Our family would traditionally serve this in two parts, but serve however you like.
1. Extract the broth (strain out any solids) into a separate pan and bring back to a boil. Add about 1T per 1C of fluid small pasta such as orzo or pastina and cook per box directions until al dente. Serve as first course. Usually we would top this with some salt and pepper and grated parmesan cheese.
2. Remove meat and veggies onto a serving plate. Many folks like the celery, we would always discard this and serve just the meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Cut into pieces and dress with salt, pepper, and a dash of white vinegar and a mild vegetable oil.

As I grew up in Wisconsin, this goes back to my family’s country Italian roots. I have since shared it with many of my Ozark friends.

My mom would make this as I was growing up, and I have continued to this day. I always looked forward to the first cool days of fall, because it meant that a chicken soup was going to happen soon! The aroma of the cooking soup would fill the house all day, and I couldn’t wait until dinner. Now I use a bigger pot, and extract the broth to freeze to use as stock in many other recipes. There was always a competition in the house as to which pasta we would use. My dad preferred Orzo, and my mom preferred the Pastina.

As often happens with recipes such as this, it morphs over the years and the cooks. My mom always only added 6 ingredients: Chicken, Potatoes, Carrots, Onions, Celery, and what she called her “secret ingredient” Beef stew chunks. It does richen the broth, but I never loved the texture of the boiled beef chunks. I have found that if you use a good organic/free range chicken you can get similar results without the beef. I added the garlic, and am a tad surprised she never did, as she loved garlic so much!