Friday, November 8, 2013

Rebecca's Chicken Soup

A cure for a cold, and a gloomy November day!

It's getting to be that time of year where everything is getting cold and gray and decidedly less festive than September and October, unless you're in any major retailer right now, considering according to them, Christmas apparently started before Halloween this year. November isn't really my favorite month, and I'm actually not a big fan of Thanksgiving, either, but since I didn't get to do a lot of my more fall-themed recipe ideas, I'm looking forward to trying to fit a few in that I didn't get to in October.

And while this isn't necessarily a uniquely fall recipe, it's something I've been wanting to do on the blog for a while, and I don't think anyone will try and make the argument that chicken soup isn't the perfect thing for a chilly fall day. Chicken soup has become something of a joke between me and my best friend (she knows why), and when I asked her if she had a family recipe she'd be up for sharing with me, she was happy to oblige! It's one that her mom learned from her grandma, and I was really excited to try making a dish that's been passed down through a family for so many years.
 

I have often told people that I'm not really a fan of soup. I never used to go out of my way to eat it, particularly out of a can, but I think I'm starting to come around on it. Making soup from scratch is a time consuming activity, if only because you need to stick around to make sure the house isn't going to burn down with the stove on, but since all you really have to do is chop things up and put them in a pot, it's actually a lot easier than you might assume it is.

I thought this especially was a pretty painless recipe to make, even working off a pretty casual recipe without exact measurements. The one thing I would maybe do differently next time is that because all the liquid burned off really quickly when I first cooked the chicken for my Brunswick stew, I maybe got a little enthusiastic when it came to adding water to the pot to make sure we wouldn't have a repeat of what happened before. It meant the broth was a little watery and not super flavorful, and while this is admittedly supposed to be a lighter broth than something you were eating out of a can, I'm still wondering if I should have been a little more conservative when it came to the liquids in the pot.


Still, the chicken shredded up nicely, and there was more than enough liquid to work as a broth without having to quickly sub in some chicken stock.

I was told that the parsnips and dill were definitely what gave this soup its flavor, and so I made sure I got a lot of them in the pot. Most of the parsnips in the bag I'd bought were normal sized, but you might notice in the pictures below that there was one major exception to that. That was easily the biggest parsnip I've ever seen, and it was a pain to try and cut up because it was so tough! I kept worrying I was either going to break my knife or cut my hand, haha.

I did also add an onion as instructed, but most of the pictures I got of it were too blurry to be worth putting it on the blog. Oh well, we all know what an onion looks like, right?


I left it alone on the stove for about four hours, and when I pulled the lid off to check on it, here's what it looked like!


Many people will tell you that with soups like this, it's best to let it sit for about 24 hours before serving it to really let the flavors meld together. However, when questioned on this, my friend said it would taste great today too, because (and this is a direct quote): "if I am smelling it cook all day I am eating it TODAY."

Because I'm not exactly a patient person, I embraced this philosophy wholeheartedly and poured myself a bowl. I am happy to report that it is quite tasty, and is a nice, light soup, without the kind of gross, heavy feeling that comes along with a lot of canned chicken soups. It might get a little more chicken-y the longer it sits, but I sincerely doubt that's going to be a bad thing.


Now even though chicken soup is something that has become strongly associated with Jewish cuisine, just about every culture has a version of chicken soup, and they're all highly customized by region and personal taste preferences of the family doing the cooking in terms of which spices and vegetables get put into it. Although each version of the dish has its own roots and origin stories, and you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy it or have your own family recipe for it, chicken soup has been a popular addition to Shabbat meals in most Jewish homes for pretty much as long as anyone can remember. This version is probably more similar to other family recipes you might find amongst people with Jewish Russian or Polish backgrounds. Food historians have reported that in this part of the world, the dish was first made in poor communities of Russia where poultry was the only affordable meat option. Families would use each part of the bird to create a hearty three course meal, one of which being a clear brothed soup, and considering it was still a tasty thing to eat that could stretch to serve a lot of people, it remained a popular addition to any family's weekly meal rotation.

Chicken soup is also famous for the semi-myth that it's the perfect cure for a cold. I say semi because scientific studies have actually proved that this is at least somewhat true! While eating a bowl of chicken soup won't instantly cure your cold, it has some anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe symptoms like a stuffy nose and sore throat. The fact that it's very rich in protein and vegetables doesn't hurt, either!

To close, I just really want to say thanks so much for lending me the recipe! This is definitely something I'll be making again, and I really appreciate that I've been given the opportunity to learn how to make dishes my friends and family grew up with and talk about the history behind them. It's one of the things I've enjoyed most about starting this blog!

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