It is almost Passover and thoughts and articles seem to turn to chicken soup. I usually make Passover dinner, if not strictly speaking a Seder, and have enough food for 10 plus leftovers, even if we are only 6 people at the table. This year with only 3, I will limit the meal to chicken soup and matzoh balls and maybe some charoses since I have apples and walnuts and maybe some madeira instead of the same bottle Manishewitz I have been using forever.
My mother made great chicken soup but everyone probably thinks her mother made great chicken soup. This theory is borne out by the fact that I once saw the results of a blind turkey taste test in which the favorite always turned out to be a facsimile of the one served during the tasters childhood. My mother's soup had no green things (other than dill) floating in it and when chilled turned to a nice jelly like consistency. The secret to the flavorful broth, she declared, was using a kosher chicken. At the time this made little sense to me because I could not imagine that ritual slaughtering actually produced a superior chicken and broth. Years later I divined that what made the chicken and broth better had more to do with the bird having be "koshered" or brined. When we lived in Brooklyn and she got her chicken from the kosher butcher it always came with feet which I am sure also added to the broths richness.
About a decade ago I discovered soup socks which where ideal for putting in the celery, parsley, dill and onions thus segregating them from the broth. I haven't seen them for a while so I have reverted to my mothers method of dealing with these veggies.
Peel a medium onion and stick in a few cloves to keep it from falling apart
Break two long stalks of celery in half (or use 4 shorter ones)
Take a bunch of dill, cut off stems and place between two pieces of celery. Wrap twine around and knot to make a little package.
Repeat for parsley.
Peel and cut a bunch of carrots into 1inch pieces.
Place veggies and some salt in a large pot, the taller the better.
Add chicken cut into eighths
Pour in about 8 cups of liquid. Sometimes I will use water in combination with a can of low sodium chicken broth. Liquid should come to top of chicken but it does not have to be completely submerged. I like to leave the breasts peeking out on top so they don't get too dried out.
Cover and bring to a boil. Skim the foamy gunk that accumulates on top and lower heat to simmer. Leave lid askew and simmer for about 90 minutes. My goal has always been to cook the soup long enough to have a rich broth but not so long that the chicken is inedible.
We used to have the soup with matzoh balls and eat the boiled chicken separately with horseradish. I have usually stripped the chicken from the bone and added some to the soup,
using the leftovers for chicken salad. But this year, I might have to serve the boiled chicken as a separate course. It would give new answer to why is this night different from all other nights.