Cold Weather Comfort
Published October, 2008
These grandparents prepare chicken soup with a twist
With golden autumn days comes the kind of chill that chicken soup banishes best. A comforting tradition across cultures, chicken soup is universally considered a mother’s (and grandmother’s) secret weapon against the sniffles. But these grandparents know that broth warms the body and the heart, alike, and even the steam wafting off a big pot of soup has a life of its own, wrapping its magic around like a soft, down blanket.
Pennsylvania Dutch-Meets-Italian Chicken Soup
Melanie Barnard, 63, swears by her nana’s chicken soup. "My Pennsylvania Dutch grandma, Cecelia Sheppard Gilli, made the egg noodles from scratch, and my Sicilian nana, Stephanie Faso, grew a lot of herbs. This recipe, though never cooked together by Grandma and Nana, is a coalition that comes from my mom," she says. The recipe is based on a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch chicken soup, but Italian herbs, Parmesan cheese, and vegetables have been added for good measure.
The recipe has not changed much from her mother’s original recipe and she claims, like many proud owners of heirloom chicken soup recipes, that the preparation is not really a recipe, but something thrown together based on "whatever veggies I’ve got," such as parsnips, peppers or zucchini. The soup is a great example of everyday comfort food from Barnard’s childhood, a soup she still serves to keep the winter sniffles at bay, with warm Pennsylvania Dutch biscuits or a crusty loaf of Italian bread.
1 (3 to 3 1/2 pound) chicken, cut up with back and neck reserved
1. Trim and discard the excess fat from the chicken. Place all the chicken parts, including back and neck, in a large kettle or stockpot. Add the water, onion, carrot, celery, fennel, and parsley stems, peppercorns, oregano, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is tender, 40 to 45 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
For the egg noodles:
1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process for about 1 minute to mix and knead the dough, or place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Judy Solomon's Low-Fat Couscous Chicken Soup
In our Feature Cold Weather Comfort, we focus on chicken soup. Like many grandmothers, Judy Solomon, 66, of Roslyn, N.Y., follows her instincts when making chicken soup. She allows her nose and taste buds to tell her what’s needed in the pot to ensure the broth is "clean, clear, and flavorful," representing her cooking aesthetic of healthy, simple, clean food.
Unlike her own grandmother's, Solomon's soup is low in schmaltz (chicken fat) and she doesn’t "have a lot of extra stuff floating around." For some substance and texture, she sometimes serves the soup with the carrots and parsnips she uses to cook the broth.
"My recipe isn’t necessarily better, but it is more modern, more health-conscious," says the 66-year-old grandmother of four. Solomon removes most of the skin from the whole bird prior to cooking "so there is less fat to skim at the end” as well as making use of leeks for subtle onion flavor.
She also often adds couscous to the finished product instead of rice or noodles, and prefers it to the matzo ball, a Jewish holiday favorite, which she finds “too heavy and filling." She says, "Couscous has more texture than noodles. This addition didn’t come from anywhere in particular, I just like it."
3 1/2 pound whole chicken, cut into quarters, most of the skin removed (optional), thoroughly rinsed
1. Cut the chicken into quarters (or eighths if preferred), removing most of the skin (optional — some people like to leave the skin for flavor). In an eight-quart pot, add the chicken pieces and fill the pot three-quarters to the top with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for a half hour, skimming impurities as needed.
Yield: Serves 6.