Chicken-Rice Soup

I never buy boneless chicken anymore – instead, I bone it myself at home, and use the bones to make this luscious soup. It also works to use the bones from cooked chicken (or turkey), but you’ll need more bones than you do when you use raw ones. To make stock the “right way,” you’ll want to throw in something called a bouquet garni – which is a packet of herbs, tied neatly together with a string. I find it works just as well – and is a lot easier – to just throw the herbs right in the pot.

raw chicken bones, from a 4 – 5 lb chicken
(While this soup is a great way to use up leftover bones, it also works to boil a whole chicken. Just remove the breasts after no more than 20 minutes so they don’t overcook, strip away the meat when it’s cool enough to handle, and put the bones back in the pot)
2 carrots, scrubbed & cut in chunks
3 celery stalks with leaves, cut in chunks
1 large onion, peeled and cut in quarters
2 – 3 cloves garlic, sliced in half
2 bay leaves
about a dozen sprigs parlsey
about a dozen black peppercorns
2t kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 c white rice  ~or~  egg noodles
1/2 c frozen corn
1/2 c frozen peas
Parsley, chopped fresh to sprinkle on your finished soup

Make the broth:
Put the chicken bones (or chicken pieces) in a large pot. Throw in all the skin and fat too. Cover with water about twice as high as the bones themselves. So if the bones fill 3″ in the bottom of the pot, put in enough water to make the pot 6″ full – including the bones, of course. (If you’re using chicken pieces, just cover them by an inch of water)

Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim off the crud that rises to the surface. If you’re using raw bones, there will be a lot of this. If using cooked bones, there will only be a little. (The recipe in the NYT doesn’t tell you to do this – so maybe it doesn’t actually matter??)

Once the stuff has stopped floating to the top, throw in the rest of the ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 – 3 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more water, if necessary.

When the broth is done (when it tastes nice and chicken-y), pour the entire contents of the pot through a strainer into a big bowl. Pour the strained broth back into the pot.

A note about low-fat soup:
If you like a low-fat soup, you’ll want to skim the fat off the top. Or put it in the refrigerator and the fat will harden on top and you can easily discard it. (The New York Times suggests using the skimmed fat to saute some leeks to throw back into the finished soup)

I always used to make chicken soup this way, because it’s how my mother did it. But I never really liked it! Then I had homemade chicken soup at my friend Philip’s house one time and it was so delicious! When prodding him for the recipe, I discovered the only difference between his and mine (my mother’s) – he left most of the fat in his broth!

Assemble the soup:
Pick through the gunk in the strainer, to fish out all the yummy bits of chicken meat that were left on the bones and put those back in the broth. Add the rice and bring back to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer at least 15 minutes, to let the rice cook.

At this point you can add whatever other vegetables you want – I like frozen peas and corn, but you can throw in carrots, celery, even little florets of broccoli and cauliflower. If you’re adding raw veggies, make sure to put them in with the rice, so they have time to cook. Or, you can saute them in a bit of the skimmed fat before ending the broth.

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