About a month ago, my entire Saturday (or Sunday, I can’t really remember) was consumed with domestic duties. I woke up fairly early, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed the apartment, made our bed, made a pot of sauce, followed by some pesto sauce then prepared dinner.
I was the epitome of the stereotypical Italian housewife. And I liked it.
My kitchen gets dirty because I’ve been really using it since Chuck and I moved in together. Our lack of disposable income forces us to stay in and cook at home, but I actually enjoy cooking a nice meal for the two of us. There’s a sense of pride I feel when I can prepare something that tastes delicious.
For example, since the weather began to get cold, I started making my mother’s chicken soup. Now, I was a spoiled kid. I never ate a can of Progresso until I got to college. I didn’t even know you could buy chicken stock. I thought everyone made their own chicken soup. When I was home in October my mom showed me how she makes her chicken soup and gave me the recipe that she typed up (check it out. I shared it below). The next weekend I set off to it.
Every time I make it I am overjoyed that I prepared something as well as my mother. It makes me excited and happy to know that I can now make chicken soup for my children just like my mom made for me. Words couldn’t express how happy I was when Chuck was anxiously awaiting the fresh pot to be finished simmering so he could have a bowl of my soup. It’s the same way I would anxiously await my mother’s soup to be ready.
More than anything, food is a way of keeping tradition and the people you love alive. I’m not sure how he did it, but a recent batch of Chuck’s sauce tasted just like my grandmother’s. No one ever knew her recipe. As I dug into that bowl of pasta, at my gradmother’s old table, I felt like she was there with me.
As our culture becomes increasingly busy and stressful, the concept of the family dinner is more important than ever. It’s just not something I’m willing to sacrifice.
Mom’s Chicken Soup
This recipe makes about five double servings of chicken soup. I separate the stock into five 5-quart containers, which I then freeze until we’re ready to have it. The whole pot costs about $5 to make (if not less, I’d have to really sit down and do the math to tell you and I’m terrible with math) and you get 5 dinners out of it. And like most Italian women, I don’t really have exact measurements so I’ll do my best.
- Chicken – The bones are key since that’s where the flavor is, but you don’t need a whole chicken unless you’re cooking for an army. I started out with just getting a package of drumsticks (about $2.50 for 4 drumsticks), but at BJ’s they had 24 chicken thighs for $9. There were four small thighs to each individual freezer package. Even if you don’t buy in bulk, I’d recommend the thighs since you get more meat for the soup.
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 carrot
- 1 medium onion
- 3 pieces of garlic
- Fresh parsley – about 1/3 cup worth
- 1 tomato
- 1 potato
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt (honestly, I couldn’t tell you how much. About a handful maybe?)
- A few whole pepper corns
Prepare the chicken by washing with warm water and dousing with lemon juice. This disinfects the chicken. Peel the skin off the chicken and remove as much fat as possible. The fat will rise to the top of the pot and will congeal when it’s cold or frozen.
Place the chicken in a large stock pot. If you have one of the pots with the inside screen then that would be key because it will be easier to separate the meat and veggies from the stock. If you don’t, but want a clean, clear broth, put the chicken and veggies in a cheese cloth.
In a food processor, finely chop the carrot, celery, garlic, tomato, parsley and onion. Place into the pot with the chicken. In the past my mom used to toss this stuff in whole, but found that the soup was much more flavorful when it was finely chopped.
Cut the potato into small pieces. Toss into the pot.
Add the bay leaf and pepper corns.
Fill the pot with water and place on the stove on high. Bring to a boil. Add the salt (I heard this tip on the radio last week).
When the soup begins to boil, lower the temperature and let simmer for an hour and a half.
When it is done simmering, I turn off the heat and let it cool a bit before I begin fishing out the chicken onto a plate. I use two forks to separate the chicken from the bone, which is done really easily, but I like to shred it at the same time and make sure no fatty pieces or small bones make it back into the pot.
I use a slotted spoon to scoop out the chicken and veggies and try to evenly distribute it into 4 or 5 containers. I then use a ladle to scoop the broth into the containers and let cool, half covered on the counter before putting them into the freezer.