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Chicken Soup for The Soul

01-08-2013 / By: Easy Life

A lot of you may be familiar with the series of “Chicken Soup for The Soul” books. These books feature a collection of short and dense inspirational stories and motivational essays. The name "Chicken Soup for the Soul" was chosen for this series because of the use of chicken soup as a home remedy for the sick, and therefore it was "good for the body." The inspirational stories included in this series were meant to be "good for the soul.

So what is chicken soup and how did it become known as the “Jewish penicillin”?  Chicken soup is a great, therapeutic soup that many people eat when they have a cold. It is not known if it is a myth that the soup cures a cold or nourishes your body, but most people feel that it does. The soup is made in all cultures and is considered comfort food. There are several varieties and it can be made with many different ingredients.

Traditionally, chicken soup consists of a clear broth, often with pieces of chicken or vegetables; common additions are pasta (e.g., noodles, although almost any form can be used), dumplings, or grains such as rice and barley. Chicken soup has also acquired the reputation of a folk remedy for colds and flues, and in many countries is considered a comfort food.

Chicken soup is a traditional dish of the Jewish kitchen that is usually served on Shabbat. Ashkenazi Jews were often very poor, but chicken-raising required few resources. Most Jewish families would try to acquire at least one chicken for Shabbat and try to make the most of it, using as much of the chicken as they could. Dishes such as chopped liver, helzel (stuffed chicken neck), gribenes (crackling made from fat and skin), pupik (roasted gizzards), p'tcha (chicken feet) were born of poverty-driven necessity. Chicken fat was rendered into schmaltz and used for cooking. The remaining carcass was used to prepare the soup. The soup is prepared with herbs like parsley and fresh dill or thyme, was often served with matzah balls, dumplings, flat egg noodles, or soup croutons.

In Britain chicken soup is also popular but it is usually of the creamy variety and it has fewer vegetables. The clear broth type of chicken soup also has no noodles. In America and Canada, chicken soup almost always has some kind of noodle or rice in it. China has similar chicken broth soups with various roots and flavorings like ginger, ginseng and soy sauce. French chicken soup is flavored with thyme, white wine and garlic and made from bouillon created out of chicken base.

No matter how you prepare chicken soup, it is a popular dish. It was created out of necessity, however. Chicken soup was made from old hens whose meat is not good for roasting. In the cities where old hens are not plentiful enough, the soup is made from roasting chickens. This results in plumper meat in the soup and a more oily broth.

As I reiterated before, chicken soup can be made in many different variations.  If you just want a clear chicken broth, just set the vegetables and chicken aside once the soup is done cooking. For a healthier version (the one I prefer) remove skin from chicken prior to making the soup.  For a turkey soup, just swap chicken necks and wings with turkey necks and wings.  Chicken soup generally requires an hour and a half to two hours of cooking time in order for the flavors to absorb. Below is a basic chicken soup recipe designed for beginners:

Chicken Soup

1. 3 lbs of  whole chicken, chicken thighs, drumsticks, necks, or wings

2. 2 cups of mixed vegetable medley (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, zucchini, parsnip)

3. 1 tablespoon of fresh dill

4. 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary and thyme (optional)

Place chicken in a large stock pot.  Add onions and garlic to the pot. Cover it and turn it on its highest setting. Let the chicken, onion and garlic cook in the water in this manner for two hours. Remove the entire chicken, carefully, from the crock pot. Place it on the large platter. Season the  stock with salt, pepper, dill, and herbs. Add the mixed vegetable combo. Cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes while the chicken cools on the plate. Remove the meat and skin from the bones of the whole chicken after the bird has cooled for 30 minutes. Add the meat to the soup mixture in the stock pot. Discard the bones. Lower the flame and let the soup cook for an additional 30 minutes and serve.

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