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March 29, 2010 at 12:46 PM

Chicken soup’s on! Got any tips you want to pass over?

As Jews the world over prepare for Passover, I thought I’d join them today by making a big pot of chicken soup — to serve later with some nice matzoh balls. Chicken soup’s a funny thing, culturally speaking. Every culture has its own, and everyone swears their mother or grandmother is the soup maven who truly does it “best.”

Judy Bart Kancigor, author of “Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family” is convinced her mother made the best chicken soup, and has been fighting with her cousins for years about that “fact,” though she does us all the service of including her Aunt Estelle’s recipe in the cookbook. Her aunt’s recipe calls for 25 “bottom chicken quarters,” 2 pieces flanken, the giblets from 20 chickens and 3 petrushkas (parsley roots) — among other ingredients.

Anyway, while I was prepping my single 4-pound bird for the pot this morning, it dawned on me to answer a query from Eater “kag1984” (who regularly comments from her home in Peoria, Illinois) regarding the “best” way to make chicken stock for soup. The answer, unfortunately, is that there are far too many answers. But ever the sport, I thought I’d throw out a couple tips, and ask the rest of you to add your two-cents-worth.

My tips: keep the skins on the onions, save the schmaltz for the matzoh balls, don’t be shy with the salt, and go buy some “Soup Socks.”

First off, if you do as my bubbie Lil did (and you should), you need to use a “nice” yellow onion for the stock, sliced in half, and leave the skin on — for color. Also: don’t you dare throw away the schmaltz (fat) when you’re prepping your chicken for the pot. Get under the skin around the cavity and pull that fat off — to render while the stock’s simmering for use in your matzoh balls. (You could use vegetable oil, but waste not, want not, right?) Use kosher salt, and salt liberally, because there’s nothing duller than unsalted chicken stock, I don’t care what your cardiologist tells you. But most important in my book — and believe me, I have them — is the procurement of Soup Socks.

Read it and eat it — but first, wrap it up with a Soup Sock. No muss, no fuss!

Soup Socks are one of life’s little joys: cheesecloth sacks sold under the Regency label. I’ve seen them at a variety of cookware stores, and bought my most recent package (of three) at the Seattle Restaurant Store in Shoreline for $2.95. What thrills me the most about these things is that you can keep your chicken (or chicken parts) intact, without having to make a big mess splashing stock all over the counter when you strain out the meat, skin and bones — as I always do.

So, nu? What have you got to add?

Comments | More in Cookbooks, Cooking, Food products and kitchen gear, Holidays


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