I cook in rather large quantities for a living, but no matter who I am cooking for or why, I always aim to create flavor-intense layers. That often—in fact almost always—takes time. There are few hacks and shortcuts worth the compromise in taste. Even if the cooking time itself is quick, making good food simply takes some time. Time to think about what to make, time to shop, time to prep, and time to cook and clean up. I want to get the most out of my time, and I want you to, as well, so when it comes to making my chicken soup (my version of real-deal, old-fashioned Jewish bubbe-approved chicken soup that satisfies and lingers in memories), I know I will need some serious time. It’s not all hands-on, goodness knows, but time is valuable, and to make the most of time spent, I strongly suggest that when you make this, you do what I do and make big giant vat of deliciousness.
A boatload of amazing soup is one of the handiest things you can have in a kitchen of any size for anyone. Soup can easily be frozen in small containers, or even in ice cube trays, ready to heat and drink as is, or be added to enrich any sauce—even a super quick pan sauce on a weeknight. Soup is high in nutrients and low in calories and is without a doubt, the very best gift you can give someone with a cold. Even when I was a practicing lawyer and my husband Bruce and I were first married and kid-less, I made a vat o’ soup four or five times a year to keep on hand. Reheated, with some noodles (or stuffed pasta), green leafy veggies or some other quick-cooking veggies, a handful of fresh herbs to amp up the dill or parsley flavors, and some cut-up cooked boneless chicken breast, and voilà, it was a rich meal in minutes. When our kids joined the picture and my parents came to dinner every night for the next twenty years, I was making double this recipe at least once a month.
Of Pots and Pans
If you don’t own a big ol’ stockpot (at least 20 quarts) you can easily cut my recipe in half, no problem (and use at least a 12 quart) or even cut it in quarters. Stockpots, tall and slender, are the best bet here—they aren’t costly and they are sometimes even available at the grocery stores made from aluminum to keep them light—but they do take up room in the kitchen cabinets. There is no way around the space issue I am afraid, except that you can store other pots, or even clean kitchen towels or extra sponges in it. You can also use a wide, enameled cast-iron pot, but make sure that the burner is set on a smallest simmer since it will cook faster. Or try your pasta pot (the quart size is sometimes on the bottom of the pot.)
There are plenty of times that I don’t have the wherewithal to make "scratch" chicken soup. If I have none frozen (yes, it happens), I simply use boxed broth when I need a base for another soup. I have tasted many brands and have my faves for different purposes. Some are saltier, some taste like tomatoes or peppers (don’t know why some companies do it, but they do, so read labels), some have MSG, and some are simple and pretty darn rich in honest chicken flavor. Really, they all taste quite different, and I strongly advise that you buy a few brands, warm some up in the microwave and taste them to find the ones you like best. We all have different preferences and there are plenty out there to chose from.
Chicken bone broths have been all the rage of late and I think that’s hunky-dory. My chicken soup (not stock, not a plain broth) is cooked so long and is so dense in chicken that it IS bone broth. Some commercial bone broths are really quite good, and can be heated up with some cooked chicken chunks, plenty of dill, parsley, veggies, and maybe a grain for a weeknight meal or with my homemade noodles over at thekitchn.com, for a treat.
All of that said, there’s nothing like homemade soup. On a day when you know you’re staying in for the duration (don’t leave this on the stove if you’re not nearby!), this is the ideal cooking project. Once everything is prepped and in the pot, it’s pretty low maintenance. And the results will leave you with soup—soup that will make memories—for a long time to come.