Monday, 11 July 2011

Carol's Chicken Soup..the Jewish Penicillin

Mom's Stock Pot
 After a week long struggle, I have finally succumbed to the summer cold, which got me thinking…what better way to treat a cold than with a bowl of home-made chicken soup – the “Jewish Penicillin”?

In fact, this was the first recipe my mother actually formally taught me how to prepare.  We had just moved into our new home in Maple, and Sara was a toddler.  She had probably come down with one of many colds she caught at preschool, because my mother made it clear that the time had come for me to learn the “art of chicken soup”. 

She came to my house with all the ingredients – chicken bones and breasts, onions, celery and carrots.  She taught me how to boil the bones and breasts; continually skimming off the fat and wiping down the inside of the stock pot with a wet paper towel.  Then, when the schmutz stopped rising to the surface, we added the salt and vegetables –celery leaves that would otherwise get tossed in the green bin are fabulous in the soup - chunks of carrots and celery and especially the whole onions – the favourite in every generation.  Once the soup had reached a rolling boil, we let it simmer, topping it up with water every now and then.  A few hours in, we removed the boiled chicken breasts and took the meat off the bone – this, she explained, is the bailik, the most delicious tender meat.  We returned the bailik to the soup, and let it cool.  What a treat!

Whenever I make chicken soup I am reminded of holiday meals at my parents’ home, which always started with a bowl of Bubbie Carol’s chicken soup.  I can remember the little eggs she would get from the butcher – such a delicacy and rationed every time – and I can still see my brother going back for seconds, and thirds (which he still does to this day!).  I also remember my husband’s first experience with Mom’s chicken soup…as he sat at the Rosh Hashanah dinner table amongst 15 or so guests, and tried to hide his horror as I placed a bowl of soup, prominently garnished with a chicken foot, before him.  Carlo passed the test with flying colours, gracious and charming as always, saying nothing and waiting until my mother made me remove it. 

About 7 years ago the High Holiday cooking tradition was passed on to me, along with my mother’s stock pot, which has housed many delicious soups over the years.  It still houses her soup, but now it is made with my hands instead of hers…and the requests for more tzibbellah (onions) now come from my daughters, who keep trying to convince me that at least 2 more will fit in the pot before it spills over the sides. 

I hope you enjoy Mom’s recipe, as dictated to me some 13 years ago, as much as we do.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Carol’s Chicken Soup
·         2 plump chicken breasts (with bone and skin)
·         6 cooking onions, whole and peeled (to start)
·         6 thick carrots, cut into chunks or rounds (whatever you prefer)
·         4 long celery stalks, cut into chunks
·         3 – 4 celery leaves
·         2.5 tbsp salt (or to taste)
Method: Fill stock pot 2/3 full with cold water.  Add cleaned chicken breasts.  Cover on high heat until boiling, then reduce to medium/high heat.  Skim fat after 15 minutes, and every 3 to 4 minutes thereafter. Wipe down inside edge of stockpot with moistened paper towel.  Once water boils clean, add salt, onions, carrots and  celery pieces and leaves.  Let simmer for 3 hours. Remove the breasts.  De-bone and remove skin. Cut the chicken meat “bailik” into smaller pieces and return to soup.  Let the soup cool and remove any schmaltz (fatty residue) before reheating.  The soup can be kept in the fridge for a week – it gets better with each passing day, or can be frozen. 

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