Soup Me Up.
January 21, 2009 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Soup Me Up. Can anybody tell me how to make killer chicken soup?

Okay, so a day or so ago I have the best bowl of chicken soup I can remember (from a cafeteria at that). As it's pretty damn cold here in Philly this time of year, it was just about the best thing. So I think I should be able to make some myself. But, wow, chicken soup is everywhere and there's a bajillion (okay, a gadzillion) chicken soup recipes out there and it's overwhelming. And by experience, some just tastes, well, chickenier than others and I don't know why.

So, Hive Mind, I need your experiences with chicken soup. Who has a great recipe they can endorse? Who has the secrets for making killer chicken soup for this man's soul?
posted by lpsguy to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Any recipe is fine, but start killer chicken soup with killer chicken - preferably, roast a whole bird yourself, then pull the meat from the bones and chop it. Brush the bones with a layer of catsup, then roast the bones themselves until the catsup caramelizes.

Use those bones to make stock, reducing it until it gets to the intensity of color and flavor you desire. Add veggies, salt, pepper, then pasta and chicken at the very last.
posted by jbickers at 8:56 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Making your own stock is pretty important. I usually buy one of those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store. After picking all the meat off the carcass, put the carcass in a big pot (and as much fat as I could keep on it) in a big pot with celery, carrots, fresh parsley, some onions, and a healthy amount of salt (I also add some garlic and bay leaves). Cover everything with water and let it simmer for a few hours; taste occasionally until it's at a concentration and taste you're happy with. Strain out the big chunks and little chunks, and voila, delicious chicken broth! It freezes well, and you can always add or subtract water to it to change the strength.
posted by olinerd at 8:56 AM on January 21, 2009

I make really good chicken soup. Here's what I do:

-Roast a whole chicken (or just buy a rotisserie chicken from the store). Pull the meat off and set aside.

-Put the chicken bones (and skin if you want) into a stock pot with 2-ish quarts of boxed chicken stock (this is crucial) along with a quartered onion, some celery stalks, a bay leaf and maybe fresh thyme if you want. You can add some water to the stock mixture if it doesn't look like enough in terms of quantity.

-Boil the stock for at least an hour. The house will smell amazing.

-Drain the stock into a colander over another pot. Use a ladle to press the bones & boiled vegetables to get all the liquid out.

-Heat the stock back up to boiling and throw in diced carrots, diced celery, and a cup or so of rice. (I like my soup with lots of rice). This mixture needs to simmer for half an hour. At the end, chop up the chicken you pulled off before and throw that. It just needs to be heated through.

For me the key is making your stock out of broth. It might be considered cheating but on the other hand, it's easy and delicious and I get rave reviews about my soup.
posted by kate blank at 8:59 AM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

You have to keep in mind that chicken meat cooks pretty quickly, beyond which point the meat starts getting dry and tasteless, but it takes quite a while to develop a decent broth/stock. The broth has to be pretty much done before the chicken meat that will be served as part of the soup ever hits it. So, look for recipes that start you out by having you make or buy good stock, and then use that stock to quickly cook the noodles, vegetables and meat that will make the stock into soup.
posted by jon1270 at 9:04 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I do my chicken soup in a crockpot. It comes out so rich that you actually might want to dilute it a bit.

Cut up a couple of onions, a few celery stalks, and some carrots. Cook them in a skillet over medium-low heat with some olive oil and plenty of salt for a half hour or so, until they start to caramelize.

Stick them in the crock with a salt-and-peppered chicken (on-the-bone, skin-on). Cover with water, add some dill, and stick it on low for 8 hours or so. A parsnip would be nice, too.

Remove the chicken, shred, and return as much as you want to the soup; use the rest to make chicken salad. Boil up some noodles and add to the broth. Salt and pepper and dilute to taste.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:04 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by matteo at 9:05 AM on January 21, 2009

My family's version goes something like this (there's no written recipe):

- Roast a fairly large chicken. Stuff with lemons, and rub (inside and out, and under the skin) with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Truss the chicken! Throw in some large-ish chunks of carrots, turnips, and potatoes, also covered in olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary, with a squeeze of lemon. Then roast at 400-450 degrees F for about an hour- this can vary by oven, so check on it. If you have a meat thermometer, even better- should be about 180 degrees inside.

- Eat this chicken, leaving a lot of meat on the bone. I would do something with the breast and maybe the drumsticks, and leave the rest of it pretty much alone. If you judge the vegetables to be "done" enough for your taste, you can have some of those, but they're really for the soup, thus why the chunks should be large.

-Chop the remaining chicken + bones into pieces small enough to fit into your best soup-making pot.

-Cover with filtered water. Add salt, tarragon, rosemary, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for several hours, adding more liquid as necessary (to retain enough for broth).

-Strain the resulting deliciousness though a collander, reserving the liquid. Go through and pick out the bones.

- Recombine chicken solids and broth in pot; add semi-roasted vegetables (cut into smaller pieces) and rice or egg noodles to make a more substantial soup. Bring to a boil once again, and them simmer until vegetables are tender.

Voila. Best soup ever. AKA Jewish penicillin.

(This is similar to kate blank's version, but with some significant methodological changes).
posted by charmcityblues at 9:06 AM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

posted by ottereroticist at 9:17 AM on January 21, 2009

Best answer: It depends on what you think is important. Do you want a clear broth, or a thick broth? For clear, you want a short cooking time and to use clear oils and noodles or quick-dunk dumplings. For thick, you want a long cooking time and you want to add dumplings or rice with enough time to get the gluten out and then reduce it.

My recipe, which varies, is as follows:
1.x lbs chicken tenderloins, chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 large yellow sweet onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, cored and pressed (use fresh peeled garlic cloves, cut it in half, remove the root, and then press it with a garlic press)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed
1) Brown the chicken in the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil, garlic and onion, and salt and pepper to taste.
10-16 cups water (see dumplings/rice)
6 cubes chicken bouillon
4 large carrots, sliced into coins
3 stalks celery, chopped in half
Oregano, Basil, Parsely to taste
2) Add 10-16 cups water depending on dumpling or rice choice. Add the veggies, water, and bouillon and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes and then reduce heat to simmer.
Dumplings/Grain (optional)
- If you want chicken/rice soup, you should've added about 10 cups of water, and you'll want to add 1 cup of long grain rice. Boil until the rice is cooked, and then a few minutes more until you reach the desired consistency.
- Dumplings:
1Tbsp. Crisco
1 egg
Farnia (cream of wheat, but not the instant kind... it will work, but it cooks too fast) as needed
3) For rice: add the rice, cook for another 20-30 minutes.
3) For dumplings: Mix all three ingredients (beat the egg slightly, add the crisco, the farina will help you mix the crisco in with the egg, keep adding Farina until it's SOLID ... the dough shouldn't stick to the sides of the bowl at all. Then add the dough to the (boiling) soup a little bit at a time -- the dough will expand, so don't add any more than a thumbnail sized nubbin.

If you want a thicker broth, add more water in the first place and then cook it down further. Monday night, I had a taste for really thick soup, so I added 16 cups or so of water. An hour and a half into cooking, I removed the celery and added the dumplings and kept it just below a fast boil for the next hour and a half. 3 hours later, I had a tasty soup.
posted by SpecialK at 9:17 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I grill my chicken over charcoal with hardwood chips thrown in. It gives the chicken a nice smoky flavor which gets transferred to the soup later. Might be difficult to do that right now in winter, but you have to suffer for your art, right?
posted by backseatpilot at 9:18 AM on January 21, 2009

Yeah, it starts with good chicken stock, and good chicken stock is made with bones & roasted skin. My friend, a Jewish Grandmother, roasts the chicken bones for better stock. Her matzoh ball soup is legendary. The carcass of a rotisserie chicken, with 1 onion, a couple ribs of celery (with leaves), a couple carrots and some herbs, simmered for quite a while, makes great stock. Start with lots of water, and cook it down. The more concentrated the stock, the more flavor. If you roast a chicken and have that bag of gizzards, add the gizzards to the stock pot.

Cooks Illustrated declared Swansons canned broth to be the best, but homemade is far superior. If you ever have the chance to have a freerange chicken, esp. an older hen(laying hen that has stopped producing), you can make amazing chicken soup.
posted by theora55 at 9:30 AM on January 21, 2009

One trick I heard:

* A lot of people have been advising you to make your own stock from scratch, and I recommend this too. However -- the first step to making stock involves simmering chicken bones, carrots, celery, onions, etc. in plain water.

simply try replacing the water, either all or just some, with purchased chicken broth. So in effect you're using stock to even more concentrated stock.

Give that a shot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on January 21, 2009

I don't have an actual recipe but I think this particular ... flavor enhancer makes any stock/broth taste better: MSG.
I know it has a bad reputation but I love the stuff. It's magic yummy umami-ness in a jar.
Find it in your grocery as Accent (or in Oriental Grocery as Ajinomoto). It makes chicken tastes chicken-y-er and really brings out other flavors as well.
I would suggest substituting a portion of the salt you use with MSG.
posted by simplethings at 9:44 AM on January 21, 2009

i am not speaking from experience but i have read on more than one occasion that *the* *best* chicken soup uses chicken feet.

ive always wanted to try, but honestly, not sure how it could be much better than some of the ideas in this thread.
posted by gcat at 9:45 AM on January 21, 2009

This is my Mom's recipe and I swear by it:

Get a big like 16 quart stockpot. These are on sale at Crate and Barrel for 20 bucks. Drop a chicken in it, cover that bird with water (Maybe 8-10 quarts of water?). Add like two onions, 2 or 3 carrots, a couple ribs of celery and bring it to a boil. Add a cup to a cup and change of rice. Let this boil for like 90 minutes, until the chicken is cooked, stirring to make sure the rice isn't burning on the bottom. If you have dill, add that now.

Once the chicken is cooked, pull it out. Rip the meat off! Just get in there with your fists. Now blend the coup- Get yourself an immersion blender, this will take YEARS with a regular blender. Blend it until smooth, it'll be thick and creamy. This may take 5-10 minutes, stick with it. You'll need to salt the hell out of it. You'll probably also need to add either A- A few bouillon cubes or B- Some of that Better than Bouillon paste (Trader Joe's has a version, too) to really round out the flavor.

Boil up some egg noodles and assemble your soup: Noodles, chicken, then pour the soup over. Freeze the remainder.

There's like 10 minutes of prep work and you will have soup enough for a month.

This a thick, hearty soup. If you want the clear wimpy stuff, I cannot help you.
posted by GilloD at 9:47 AM on January 21, 2009

This is my favorite chicken soup recipe - originally posted by John Kusch to a now-defunct blog, he gave me permission to repost it (I saved it for my recipe file - you can read more of his writing here). I've also used a whole broasted chicken for it with good results.

Recipe: Criminally Wasteful Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is literally one of the only fond memories of my mother I'm able to conjure these days without seriously considering slitting my wrists and dipping them into some warm, salty broth (encourages blood flow, discourages clotting). I love chicken soup, and I love it dirty.

Imagine a whole fryer with skin, crudely chopped apart with an angry cleaver, then brutally boiled uncovered along with the giblets in a cheap tin pot for four to six hours until the meat has completely detached from the bones, separating into a stringy tangle, supple and clinging as seaweed, and the skin has rendered almost completely into quivering white mush. To this oily gruel add coarse-chopped carrots and celery along with 2-4 teaspoons of fake boullion powder, then finish off with egg-and-flour dumplings dropped directly into the frothing mess with a dirty teaspoon. Serve once the vegetables yield to a fork with oyster crackers and Pabst Blue Ribbon. That is some chicken soup, right there.

Matt also loves chicken soup, but he likes it a bit lighter, a bit cleaner, a bit, oh, dare I say it -- whiter -- free of woody fragments of chicken bone and slimy clumps of skin. How to find rich, visceral flavor in a broth that remains relatively clear and pristine?

You waste a bunch of food, is how.
Criminally Wasteful Chicken Soup

Equipment: Stock pot (at least 8 qt), large plastic or steel mixing bowl, large colander with medium to small holes, a long wooden spoon and a decent French knife.


* two whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick) with skin
* one whole boneless skinless chicken breast (one breast = both breasts of the chicken in one piece)
* eight medium carrots
* one whole bunch of celery, washed, separated into stalks, celery heart kept aside.
* one large yellow onion
* vegetable/peanut/canola oil
* salt and pepper

To make the broth: Heat 3-4 tbsp oil in the bottom of the stock pot under high heat until shimmering. Add chicken legs and brown for about five minutes each side. Coarsely chop four carrots, the entire yellow onion, and half of the celery stalks and add to the stock pot, along with the celery heart. Allow vegetables to "sweat" for about 10 minutes total, stirring occasionally. They've sweated enough when the layers of the onion begin to fall apart. Salt liberally.

Add 3-4 liters of water to the stock pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, add pepper to taste and boil covered for 60-90 minutes. Vegetables should be soft and chicken should be starting to fall apart.

Now here's the wasteful part: We've gotten all the flavor we want from the chicken and the vegetables -- the browned dark meat gives up a deep chicken flavor and the sweated vegetables should have expressed everything they've got -- so it's time to get rid of them. Remove the stock pot from heat and strain through the colander, which should be set in the mixing bowl (make sure the mixing bowl and colander are big enough to accommodate the solids and liquids. Shake colander until most of the moisture has passed through, then discard cooked chicken and vegetables. Yes, I said discard them. In the garbage. We're done with them. They're dirty now.

To finish the soup: Return strained stock to stock pot over medium heat. The stock should be a nice golden color and have a sheen across the top. Chop up remaining carrots and celery (fine or coarse -- it's up to you) and add to stock. Slice chicken breast into roughly 2 cm cubes (slice the two halves of the breast apart lengthwise, then cut each individual breast in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into 2 cm chunks) and add to stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for another 60 minutes. Serve with egg noodles, spƤtzle, crackers, or your favorite bread. Serves 4-6 as a soup course, 2-4 as a main course.
posted by nanojath at 10:01 AM on January 21, 2009

I find the chickeniest-tasting chicken broth or stock starts with raw chicken. We make it with both raw and roasted chicken, but if you're after super-chickeny, you can't go wrong by starting with a whole raw chicken and a big pot of water.

Also, don't under-salt. Nothing blands up a soup by under-salting. I usually add a lot more salt than it seems like I should need before the right flavor develops.
posted by rusty at 10:09 AM on January 21, 2009

Use more salt than you think you need (if you're going from scratch and not using store-bought broth), and taste, taste, taste through the whole process.

If you really want to use a store-bought chicken stock/base/broth to enhance the soup (and if you have really great homemade stock you won't need to use anything else), I recommend Better Than Bouillon. It's base, meaning you add a certain amount of the concentrated paste to boiling water. I really, really like the Vegetable one, or the No-Chicken one. You can also get low-sodium and organic versions. If you do use anything store bought, watch your added salt. A lot of that stuff is super, super salty.
posted by cooker girl at 10:25 AM on January 21, 2009

This Asian Chicken and Chili Soup isn't traditional chicken soup, but it is amazing, especially on a cold winter day. It's super easy and quick to make, and very flavorful.
posted by logic vs love at 10:25 AM on January 21, 2009

Brush the bones with a layer of catsup, then roast the bones themselves until the catsup caramelizes.

Dear God no. Tomato paste if you must, but that's going to impart way, way too much heaviness to something that should be light but assertive. If you're going to roast the bones for stock, just brush them with olive oil first. And do not under any circumstances salt your stock. Nor let your stock boil--don't ever boil your stock. A light simmer is fine.

Echoing the use of chicken feet in the stock. Also use necks and backs for making the stock. Necks/backs/feet == more connective tissue == more gelatin in the stock == thicker mouthfeel.


Take a bunch of chicken bits--backs, necks, feet. Roast if you like for extra flavour and colour. Place in a tall stockpot, add cold water--just enough to cover. You can add more later if needed.

Bring up to a simmer. Toss in some onions, carrots, celery (in the ratio 2:1:1), thyme, white peppercorns, bay leaves. Again for extra colour you can leave the skins on the onions.

Keep simmering. A foam will develop on top. Skim this off. Keep simmering until you stop getting new foam. Don't worry about the fat, we'll deal with that later.

Simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced. An inch or two maybe.

Fish out the biggest chunks, discard. Strain the rest through the finest mesh strainer you have, discard the rest of the chunky bits.

Now comes the perfection part: chill the stock quickly. Once chilled, the fat should have risen to the top. Now freeze the stock in something that is smaller than your finest mesh strainer.

After the stock is frozen, remove from whatever you froze it in, and place it in your fine mesh strainer, lined with at least 2 (preferably 4) layers of cheesecloth. Make sure the strainer is high enough over whatever you're straining into that it's clear of any liquid that is strained through. Place the whole assemblage in the fridge and forget about it until it's completely strained through. The cheesecloth will strain out any residual impurities as the stock melts, and the fat will remain solid at fridge temperature.

Voila, you now have perfect chicken stock, nice and clear and richly flavoured.

To turn this into soup, just sweat a fairly fine mirepoix (5mm dice are about right imho) in some butter for a bit, seasoned. Add in a bunch of shredded chicken (roasted is best, IMHO), double check seasoning, then pour stock over. Hold off on seasoning again until it's almost ready to eat--soup will reduce no matter what, and it's better to undersalt at the beginning (salting only for the veg and the chicken) and add more at the end. Otherwise you can end up with way too much salt, and you're forced to dilute your soup to make it edible.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:33 AM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

The most delicious "chicken" soup I have ever made was actually made with a turkey carcass and no celery (it seemed like a travesty, but I had no celery and no way to get to the store). Tragically, I don't know how the turkey was cooked, as I went somewhere else for Thanksgiving dinner, and was just left the carcass as an act of generosity. It was, however, the most satisfying and delicious soup. In the fridge it gelled up to a glorious wobbly consistency, and when heated with just some noodles (so wonderful for a cold-addled me a few weeks later--that was the freezer portion don't worry) it was the best stuff ever.

The chickenier ones will all have more salt or msg. Try mushrooms or kombu for some glutamate if you're dead against salt.

My method is dead simple. Stick meated-thing (stripped carcass, whole chicken, chicken bits, whatever) into a pot, cover with water, add enough carrots, celery (three carrots/three celery ribs), and an onion sliced in half. Also salt. Simmer for a while (at least an hour). Simmering is better than boiling. Depending on what you started with, take out the bones and remove meat bits, strain out the gloopy carrot onion and celery bits, boil some noodles in salted water, dump into hot soup, store the rest for later.

You can reboil with a couple carrots and celery ribs for added veggies later, but the mushy ones are a bit mushy to just leave in. Also add chicken bits and heat them up, of course.
posted by that girl at 10:44 AM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: Ohmigod, these are great. I don't know which to try first. Maybe all. Keep 'em coming. Oh, and the soup I had used tortellinni as it's pasta. I'm leaning that way.
posted by lpsguy at 10:48 AM on January 21, 2009

Ahh.. Good ole chicken soup.

First, the base.

You need stock. Full bore, rich as all hell, stock. For this, you need bones. Lots of them. Chicken bones.

You can either collect chicken remains when you have chicken until you have a few chickens worth, or go buy 4-6 pounds of chicken wings. Rotisserie chicken carcasses work too.

Take your wings, whack em with a cleaver to cut them down to the bone.

Go get a leek or 2. Get some onions and some carrots. Just some.

Cut them into pieces. Big honking ones. Don't worry about peeling the carrots, just cut off teh ends and wash em.

Toss the wings and the vegetables with some oil. Add some salt. Toss em into a roasting pan. Roast the whole package for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Take the roasted stuff and put it into a big ass stockpot. Toss in 1 or 2 whole chickens (depending on how much meat you want). Boil, then lower to a simmer.

Simmer for an hour or so. The chickens with the meat should be done. Pull those chickens out with some tongs, let em cool, strip off the meat, then toss the carcasses back into the stockpot.

Simmer for a few more hours. I tend to go for 2-3 hours just because I do other stuff around the house.

Now you have a few choices. Easiest is to strain the stockpot, toss the bones and stuff, add in peeled and cut up carrots and whatever vegetables you like. Cook those for a bit, then add noodles, then add your chicken once everything is where you want it to be. Season and poof.

Or, strip out the chicken skins from the remains. Skim your fat from the soup, slice some onions, mince some garlic and put it into a skillet. Cook the skins, fat, onions and garlic until the skins get all crunchy and you have a skillet of awesome. Drain the fat into a bowl and use it to make matzoh balls.

1/3 cup schmalz (fat)
4 eggs
1 1/3 cup matzoh meal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Mix it up. Boil water, add some salt to it. make pingpong ball sized balls, drop into water, do not overcrowd. Cover, simmer for 25 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE POT FOR 25 MINUTES!

Put into soup.
If you're in the states, a little trick if you have a catastrophic bland soup failure is to use a bit of "Better than Bouillon". We used to backfill with it before we got a hang of MEGA-STOCK, but it's a good trick if you have a misfire.

But follow these steps, and soon, you will never need to use cubes again.

Also, this soup is a rocking replacement for chicken broth. Watch the salt levels though to keep it from killing anyone. We make a huge batch every few weeks and freeze it in 1 cup tupperware.
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:16 AM on January 21, 2009

If you can get your hands on the bones of a chicken that is a bit older than your average supermarket chicken, you'll find the flavour much improved. Tiny little chickens that have only been alive for a few weeks just don't taste as chickeny as an older bird. A nice free-range chicken is great, but you can also buy older, tougher birds in some supermarkets for very little.
posted by ssg at 11:45 AM on January 21, 2009

The best chicken soup I've ever eaten, by far, is also nearly the simplest. The key is to only assemble it just before eating. Take a bowl of hot, fine, clear chicken stock, add a handful of cooked (but not over cooked!) broad egg noodles, a generous shred of dark chicken, and a small sprig of fresh dill. Serve with soft rye bread and butter.

Oh my god, WANT.

This is the method they used to use at Kasia's, N 9th and Bedford in Brooklyn. I haven't been there for years, but it has no doubt been replaced by something loathsome, and perfect chicken soup-less.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:24 PM on January 21, 2009


Sorry for the big headline, it's just that my wife makes a wonderful soup without all the fuss of broiling bones and such.

-Buy several chicken legs with thighs attached, 4 or 5 legs will do. Leave the skin on (it's nice to use organic chicken if it's available, especially since it's such an inexpensive cut of chicken)
-Put them into a large stock pot of COLD water. It has to be cold.
-Watch the pot as it approaches boiling because this is when you take a soup spoon and skim off the scum that is collecting on the surface (reduce temperature a bit if it starts boiling too furiously)
-when the scum stops forming, add a few chopped carrots, a washed leek (just slice it open to clean it and don't chop it because it's just for flavour) and a couple of quartered onions. Add a some sage leaves and a bay leaf or two and some whole peppercorns if you've got them. A small red pepper or dried flakes are nice too. Throw some salt in.
-after half an hour at a low boil, remove the chicken to a plate to cool down enough to handle. Tear the meat off (this is where it's good that you used legs because you get lots of flavour but there aren't tons of little ribs, vertebrae or wing bones to deal with)
-return the meat to the pot with the heat on low and try to fish out most of the leek.
-boil another pot to cook whatever noodle you like (I prefer the tiny ball noodles, bowties or anything that's not going to flop around while your eating it)
-set the cooked noodles into bowls and add the soup to them.
-add salt to taste
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:15 PM on January 21, 2009

...oh, choose the biggest chicken legs the grocer has or got to a butcher and tell him it's for soup.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2009

...oops, forgot to put the celery in.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:21 PM on January 21, 2009

Whether you use only stock or chicken and stock...I CANNOT stress the importance of QUALITY chicken. My cooking life has changed ever since I switched to organic milk. Amazing. Start off with good quality ingredients, and you'll have good product.

Good luck, and leave us the recipe you use at the end.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:13 PM on January 21, 2009

This is a method I invented a couple of years ago when I was sick like dog and needed chicken soup and didn't want fuss. But it's wonderful and easy.

1 package deboned chicken thighs, usually about half a dozen
2 onions and 2 to 5 chopped garlic cloves
Whole peppercorns
Seaweed. I use a powdered mix of dulse, nori and kelp, but anything will do. Big pinch of it. Strange ingredient, but it boosts your umami.
Some oil, duck fat or what have you.
1-2 limes
Package chopped frozen spinach
I usually put in some dried tarragon at the beginning, use your judgement on herbs but don't go overboard

Chop up the onions and garlic and put them in your soup pot with the seaweed and dried herbs, if any, and a whack of peppercorns, and cook in your oil for maybe 10 minutes. Add the chicken pieces. You sort of have to unroll deboned thighs. Do that, and let them brown for awhile, both sides.

Meanwhile, boil a kettle. After the chicken pieces are browned enough, pour the entire kettle of water into the pot. It will start simmering almost immediately. Let everything simmer for maybe half an hour. Haul the chicken pieces out, chop them up, replace them in the soup, add the frozen spinach and maybe some more boiled water. Let everything simmer another while and then taste it. I put in a whole lime's worth of juice and a big pinch of salt at this stage and then taste it and usually add more.

Then add some rice and let it cook awhile longer.

Like most such soups, this will need to be thinned out a little the next day but it will also be tastier then, although you can eat it as soon as you like after the rice has become souplike. Adding grated zucchini and carrots (early on, while the chicken browns) sweetens and enriches the taste and is a nice variation but is not necessary. So is putting in a large pinch of curry powder instead of herbs.

Just don't mess this up with celery. Ew.
posted by zadcat at 5:16 PM on January 21, 2009

Dude, you simply cannot choose as a best answer a recipe that calls for bouillon cubes. No no no no no no no no no no.

Until now, I always assumed that roasted bones make the chickeniest stock, so I'm curious to try to start with a raw chicken.

I've been meaning to try this amazing sounding recipe, from a previous AskMe, FYI.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:58 PM on January 21, 2009

This is relatively quick and comes out awesome although it only makes about 3-4 svgs. Chop up carrots, onions and celery and place them on a pan. Get a 1/4 chicken and chop up some thyme and garlic and place under the skin - Roast the veggies and chicken in a dutch oven. Once it's done take out the chicken and pull meat off in strips (this is important because if you chop it the meat texture will feel tougher on the teeth) and saute the veggies and bones in some olive oil salt and pepper. Add a box of Trader Joes vegetable stock and bring to a simmer (if no trader joes you can use another store brand). After about 10 minutes take out the bones and toss in the chicken and some noodles. Cook until the noodles are done. Simple delicious chicken soup!
posted by any major dude at 8:09 PM on January 21, 2009

This is really stupid but if you are Jonesing for chicken soup but don't have the time to make you own try this:

Any can of chicken soup heated any way you prefer. Put it into a bowl. Add a big heaping tablespoon of Trader Joe's Mixed Grilled Vegetable Bruchetta. Serve with a charred tortilla. Yum.
posted by snowjoe at 8:10 AM on January 23, 2009

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