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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not My Mother's Chicken Soup

I do not come from a family of cooks. My mother was not what you would call a gourmet, and, to my knowledge, my father never prepared anything more complicated than a "p'nup" and jelly sandwich. On Jewish holidays, my mother would make chicken soup, which was really "essence of chicken soup." It always tasted as if the chicken had kind of done a sprint through the water but hadn't actually settled in for a  long, hot bath.

So, it's probably not surprising that up until a couple of years ago, I always bought my chicken stock in a box. Before that, I bought it in a can. I never even gave any thought to the fact that homemade might actually be better. In fact, I would make chicken "soup" from time to time, but I never really made the connection between chicken soup and chicken stock. (Looking back, it's a little scary to think about how little I knew about cooking generally.) But I digress. Homemade stock really is better. It's richer, less salty, and healthier. After all, when you make it yourself, you know exactly what you're putting into it.

Ina Garten actually inspired me to make my own chicken stock. She said it was easy, and in her recipes she always makes note of the fact that homemade is preferable. So, believing that Ina knows best, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Ina did know best, and I've never looked back.

It is surprisingly easy to make homemade chicken stock, but it takes time and can be a little messy. Let's face it, it's not worth making it if you're not going to make a lot. Fishing all the chicken and vegetables out of the finished stock can be, well, a little splashy, but the end result is well worth the cleanup.

This recipe makes about 7 quarts. For storage, I use one quart plastic containers, which I buy at the restaurant supply store. Label the containers with the date and then freeze them for up to three months. I guarantee you'll never go back to the box again. And, if someone gets a cold and needs some Jewish Penicillin, all you have to do is heat up a container and add some noodles. Sure beats the box.

Homemade Chicken Stock
From Barefoot Contessa Family Style, 2002


3 5-pound roasting chickens
2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, quartered
6 carrots, unpeeled, halved
4 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds
4 parsnips, unpeeled, cut in half
20 sprigs fresh parsley
15 sprigs fresh thyme
20 sprigs fresh dill
1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
2 tbl. kosher salt
3 tsp. whole peppercorns

Place all the ingredients in a 16 - 20 quart stockpot.  Add 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer uncovered for 4 hours.  Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids.  Chill the stock overnight.  The next day, remove the surface fat.  Use immediately or pack in containers and freeze for up to three months.


  1. Love your blog Nadine!

  2. Nadine,I can hear your voice as I read through this. Great Stuff!Thanks for the recipes.