Big Girls, Test Kitchen: Small Kitchen Chicken Soup

EVENT: New Year, New Cold
TYPE: Healing, Small Kitchen Friendly

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year. I was too sick to: I woke up on the morning of Friday, January 1st with a throat that felt like it was closing in on me. This progressed, on January 2nd, to sinus pain and a headache, on January 3rd to a nose that wouldn’t stop running, and on the 4th to a permanent feeling of having to sneeze but being unable to, with the result that my eyes just teared all the time. It was not the best conditions in which to start a new year.

On Monday, four days into the illness, I ran out of tissues. I went out to replenish my supply, and to treat myself to a fresh-squeezed orange juice. At the market, I wound up by the butcher, and recalling an earlier conversation with my sister Kate during which she’d suggested I make myself some soup, I grabbed a package of organic chicken thighs.

The soup I proceeded to make is not my mother’s perfect chicken soup. It’s not the flawless, cloudy stock you might see in a restaurant kitchen. I didn’t even use a whole chicken. This was because the market didn’t have one, of course, but I was ultimately pretty glad. There was much less chicken detritus, but not much less taste, because I supplemented the ordinary “boil for hours” technique with “brown and then boil” and it made a world of difference. In other words, instead of extracting flavor from a whole chicken, I extracted flavor from chicken parts browned in oil, and from carrots, celery, onions, and garlic, also slightly caramelized. Within an hour and a half of coming home from the market, I was eating truly flavorful soup. And the next day? I was all better. Which gave me the opportunity to play with my soup: I had it one day with chicken meat and rice, one day filled to the brim with chopped arugula and a squeeze of lemon juice, and one day filled to the brim with egg noodles.

From my kitchen, where chicken soup is better than penicillin, to yours,
Small Kitchen Chicken Soup
Makes 7 cups
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons canola oil
4 chicken thighs, about 1.5 pounds
1 onion, diced
3 small carrots, cut into thin rounds
3 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, smashed
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken pieces. Let them sear for about 2 minutes on each side, then remove to a plate, being careful not to drip the juices.
Turn down the heat to medium-low and add the onions, cook for a minute or two, then add the carrots and celery. Saute the vegetables until they’re slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute, then add back in the chicken and 8 cups of water. Raise the heat to high, and stir to scrape off any brown bits that may have been left at the bottom. When the stock boils, try to spoon some of the foam off the top, then cook, mostly covered, for about 50 minutes.
  • Colleen

    Because this is a quick-cook soup, do you think using low-sodium chicken stock from your grocer, rather than water, would have amped up the flavor?

  • Kate

    Glad I was able to help. I love all the variations you made with the chicken stock, especially the arugula filled cup.

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    Colleen–I found that the browning and the generous use of veggies amped up the flavor plenty. I don't think chicken broth is really necessary–but I'd love to hear about your experiments if you end up using some!

  • Anonymous

    I used the boxed chicken broth and it was very flavorful. Because of this I hardly added any salt. Great and easy recipe, thanks!

  • Jamie L. Golden

    Hi! Can I do this in a big 8qt soup pot? I don’t have a dutch oven… thanks! What about taking the skin off of the chicken beforehand to save on calories? I find that when I refridgerate it, the fat rises to the top and forms into a nice gel that I can basically scoop out reallllly easily.

    • BGSK

      You can def. make it in an 8-quart soup pot. As for the skin – leave it on, and then you’re right, skim off the fat when the soup is cool. Enjoy!

  • beanjo

    I’m sick again and just felt like commenting that I am grateful for this recipe, I’ve been revisiting this recipe every time me or my boyfriend get sick for the past 4 years. This soup always makes me feel better and I can make it while sick, perf.

    • BGSK

      I’m so glad to hear this. I do the same thing, and I’m so glad the soup’s found a home in your kitchen. Also: feel better soon!

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