Joan's Chicken Soup
This is the chicken soup I grew up with – the one my mom made anytime anyone sneezed. It's still my favorite chicken soup in the world. It's a very easygoing soup, so feel free to play with it. If you have extra chicken pieces in the freezer (especially backs and necks), throw them in and increase the water accordingly, but don't worry about exact amounts. My mom never measured any of it. She never put garlic in hers, but I often do, especially if someone's under the weather – in that case, I use a whole head. (You might want to use less.) Sometimes I add a leek, or a handful of parsley. As for noodles, my mom always used fine egg noodles, never the wide ones. Usually I follow suit, but now and then I want the fat ones.
Serves 6 to 8.
A 4- to 5-pound chicken, including the back and neck, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, diced
4 to 5 stalks celery (7-8 ounces), cut into 2-inch lengths
3 large or 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 small parsnip (about 4 ounces), peeled, or a 4-ounce piece of a larger parsnip
1 head garlic (optional), separated into cloves but not peeled
1 small bunch dill
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Put the chicken pieces in a large soup pot and cover with 8 cups of cold water, or a little more if necessary to cover. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Once it's simmering, turn the heat to medium. Use a skimming spoon or other large metal spoon to remove the scum that rises to the surface. Skim several more times, until no more scum rises. Pour in 1 cup of cold water and skim again, until it's clear on top.
2. Add the onion, celery, carrots, parsnip, garlic (if using) and dill, bring to a full simmer, then adjust heat so the soup is simmering gently. Let it simmer for another hour and a quarter or hour and a half (your entire living space will smell wonderful!) then stir in the salt.
3. Strain the soup into a clean pot, reserving the chicken and vegetables, and pressing gently on the solids. Add the celery, carrots and parsnip back into the clear soup, along with any garlic cloves you happen to see (if you used them). Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken pieces (along with the dill and onions), and add the chicken meat back into the soup. Taste the soup and add salt if necessary. Keep the soup warm until ready to serve.
4. A few minutes before you're ready to serve the soup, boil the noodles in salted water until tender, then drain. Place some noodles into each of the bowls, then ladle soup on top. Pass a pepper grinder so everyone can add freshly ground black pepper to taste.