My mother's chicken soup

I’m afraid this is a disorganized recipe, but I don’t know how to organize it. I tried, but it felt like trying to explain to someone in text form how you tie shoes.

Back in 1998, I sent this recipe, exactly as shown here, to my friend and colleague Marina Frasca-Spada of the University of Cambridge when she and her partner had the flu. She thought the soup was so tasty and the recipe was so funny that she published it in a booklet about food being put together by folks in the Cabinet of Natural History at Cambridge. I guess that means I published with both Harvard and Cambridge that year!

Here’s what I sent Marina, verbatim:

Take chicken parts you like, and skin them if you feel like being healthy, don't skin them if you want the soup to taste better (or do half & half like I do). Take the chicken & put in a pot of water (I usually put about 6 thighs & 6 legs in about a gallon and a half of water, I think, but I'm not sure of quantities since I never measure) and bring the pot to a boil.  Skim off all the scum on the top of the water. After the pot is pretty clear of scum (after it has been boiling for a few minutes), and it looks like you won't get too much more scum from the chicken, add carrots, onions, and parsnips as follows:

Clean at least 10 large carrots (shave clean & cut off the ends) and put them WHOLE into the pot. Skin at least 10 small-medium onions and put them WHOLE into the pot. (They have to cook whole to taste really good.) Skin at least 4 large parsnips and put them whole into the pot. Add peppercorns (I use black), salt, several bay leaves (I usually use 6-8), thyme, and rosemary. Keep that simmering (with a slight boil) for an hour or more.  Be sure to cook until the onions are cooked all the way through (they will be in an hour).

My mother serves this like this: Pull out the chicken and the carrots & parsnips and cut them up (bone the chicken now), and put appropriate amounts in people's bowls.  Put one onion in each bowl. Then using a strainer, pour soup into the bowls.  (She does this to avoid people running into whole peppercorns & pointy rosemary.)

I usually just cut up everything, throw it back in the pot, don't bother with a strainer, and risk the peppercorns. We eat this with kluski.  You know from kluski? (Egg/flour dumplings.) Don't use too much peppercorn or you'll lose the sweet taste of the soup.


I love this soup, and Aron probably married me for this soup. Aron goes nuts over the sweet onions. It is so simple, I can't really call it a recipe, but it is HEAVENLY when you're sick. Especially if someone else gets up and makes it.


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