Chicken Soup for the Soul

Remember my earlier post on roast chicken? Here’s the second reason why this is one of my favorite family meals: leftovers. Depending on the size of your chicken, and the amount of veggies you cram into your pot (I play fast and loose with the recipe quantities), you can easily get another good meal out of this dish. But do you ever find yourself at the point with your chicken carcass where most of the good meat has been picked off, but there’s still enough there to do something with? There are lots of options, one of my favorites being chicken quesadillas, but when it’s cold and rainy out, and everyone’s still feeling a bit off, you can’t put anything better in your body than homemade chicken soup. 

So, here’s what you do. Pull off the rest of the good meat from the bones, maybe 1–2 cups total, and then put the chicken bones in a stockpot covered with a good amount of water (you want it completely submerged). Add some chopped up carrots and celery if you’ve got it, and maybe a quartered onion as well. Bring to a boil and then let simmer on the stove for a couple of hours at least (add more water if it’s boiling off too quickly)—even better if you do this the night before. After 2–3 hours, strain out the bones and veggies, and pour it back into a cleaned pot. Or, if you’re doing this the night before, pour it into a large bowl or quart-size tupperware containers and put in the fridge until you need it. If you do this, you can scrape the fat off that will have come to the top and hardened overnight. 

Once you’ve got your broth back in the pot, bring it to a simmer again, and then add some chopped carrots and celery. I don’t always have celery, so just carrots is fine. Let those cook for maybe 5 minutes before you add back in the chicken meat and some pasta—whatever kind you like. We’re partial to little stars here, but I’ve used everything from orzo to spirals to egg noodles. This is an excellent use of the end of a box of pasta that’s not quite enough for a whole meal. Then cook until your pasta is done. No quantities here, put in as much or as little as you like depending on how brothy you want your soup. We like our soup just this side of buttered noodles, but don’t worry, you’re still getting all that brothy goodness whether it’s absorbed by your pasta or not. 

BTW, this is a great first recipe for young cooks since it involves very simple ingredients and is very forgiving with quantities. And being able to make soup should be in every young chef’s repertoire: once you know the basics, you can change it up depending on whatever you have in the fridge. Stock + protein (leftover meat or tofu is perfect here!) + veggies (a little spinach at the end makes it a little more gourmet) + rice/pasta. Easy peasy. 

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e© Molly Pisula 2015