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My Mother's Chicken Soup

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That's my mother, Nora, with the crooked bangs--at the top of the triangle of sisters, and next to their aunt. My mother was the youngest. I believe this picture was taken in Germany, but there were no identifying marks of any kind on it. My grandmother decided that things were not looking good for Jews, and took her family out; first to Denmark, then to the U.S. If not for her decision I wouldn't be here, nor would my mother ever have made chicken soup. I'm happy to be able to share her recipe here, with you. 

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my kids not eating chicken soup....looks like they got into the chocolate.

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And here they are again ....well, one and a half of them, a few years later, enjoying brunch at one of our local hotspots in Brooklyn. They have both enjoyed many bowls of my mother's chicken soup--especially when feeling under the weather. We owe a lot to my grandmother's decision, and undoubtedly many grandmothers (and grandfathers) who came before her.

 

I shop at our local food co-op which has wonderful organic produce and high quality meats. If you have access to these things, that's great. If not, just use the best ingredients you can.  Go to the local farmer's market, or join a CSA if there is one in your area. Some of you know all this, but in case you don't...

THE RECIPE:

It's most fun to cook, when you don't need to measure and keep looking at a recipe book. Once you've cooked this a couple times, you won't forget it, and you'll make it your own by adding this or that thing that is your personal favorite. Some people prefer chicken soups that are full of more stuff.  This one is quite simple and has a very 'clean' taste.  

Here's what you should shop for, and then gather on your kitchen counter:

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THE BASIC INGREDIENTS

1. chicken (you can use a whole one, or parts--but they have to have the skin on)

2. a couple of onions

3. a couple cloves of garlic

4. a bay leaf or two

5. a pinch of oregano

6. a couple of carrots

7. potatoes 2 or 3 medium any kind that you like (you can use rice instead, if you prefer. if so, throw a handful (about half a cup) into the pot when the pot is full of water and has started boiling)

8. a stalk of celery

9. olive oil (extra virgin)

10. Optional: a nice bread for garlic bread, or plain bread and butter)

INSTRUCTIONS;

-First rinse the chicken under cold water (make sure your sink is clear first) and pat it dry with a paper towel.

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-put a little splash of olive oil (if you want to measure, about 2 tablespoons) into a big pot. Cermic, stainless steel, or cast iron are all good).

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-put the heat on low, and put the chicken (or pieces) into the pot and turn it a few times so that all sides can get very slightly browned (not too browned, or the soup color will become dark).

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- add onion (chopped, sliced, doesn't matter. depends on how you want it to look, and what shape you prefer to eat it in) and let it soften a little 

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- add a few pinches of kosher salt and fresnly ground black pepper 

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- thrown in a couple of plump cloves of crushed garlic (peel and carefully press down on the clove with the flat of the blade of a large knife, by placing the heel of your hand on it at the safe side of the blade--until it gets squished).

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- stir so the garlic doesn't stick,  and let it cook for about a minute, until the aroma of the garlic is evident.

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Then fill the pot with filtered cold water, until the chicken is completely covered, and then some (about two inches over)

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add a bay leaf or two. (remove them before serving).

IN ADDITION: 

 1 stalk chopped celery (and a few of the celery leaves)

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 1 chopped carrot (again shapes at your discretion)

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2 or so potates either sliced, (1/2 inch thick works) or diced, or in quarters (if the potatoes are small) depending on their size and your preference. They can be bigger than bite-sized because they will be very soft and easily broken upon eating.

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Bring to a boil, (here's where you can add the uncooked rice if you're using it instead of potato) then lower to a slow simmer. Sometimes a little brown scum appears on the surfac, and you can skim it off with a spoon if you wish.

I leave it uncovered and cook at a low simmer (should bubble very gently) for about an hour--checking in at about half an hour. If the water level is too low, add a little more cold water to the pot, but not too much. An inch or less.

Chicken should pull easily away from the bone, when done. You can cut into a piece to test and make sure it's not pink.

 I take the chicken out and place on a cutting board and either cut into small pieces, or 'shred' with a fork and throw away the skin and the bone.

 Serve in a rather large but shallow bowl for nicest visual effect.

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Distribute a handful of the shredded chicken into every bowl. Then ladle the broth and vegetables over it.  Remove bay leaf.  Salt and pepper to taste.

It is delicious with garlic bread, or your favorite plain bread with butter or olive oil.

A nice crisp salad goes well too, unless you are sick and avoiding raw/cold food.

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