April 13, 2014

TASTE: Grandma Soup

Grandma Soup. 
My wish came true. Spring has finally decided to grace New York with her presence. YES! However, if you are anything like me, spring is a smidge-bit bittersweet. Only because this particular season comes with some unsavory baggage: POLLEN. If any of you have allergies, I'm sure that you completely love all the budding trees, but are probably popping Claritin around the clock, as well. I have a better solution for you. THIS SOUP.

This soup is my winter go-to, always brimming atop the stove in the icy cold winter season. However, this is also a great springtime chicken noodle and vegetable soup, because it has insane healing properties that combat the woes of pollen. So if you're like me and battle those allergies, I encourage you to try this hearty, homey soup that will make you want to pull out your crochet and call your grandma for life advice.

Why is this called Grandma Soup? This recipe was passed down from my mom's grandma (my great-great grandma!) She used to cook it on Sundays after Catholic mass, and my mom remembers being a tiny little girl in her shiny, church-day mary janes, eating this exact soup. I love that visual image of my sweet mom, a little girl with Shirley Temple curls, slurping down the same recipe I've been eating my whole life. I didn't ever know my grandma, let alone my great-grandma, so I feel especially grateful to have one small token of that family history: this recipe. And I've learned that the best thing to do with something that you love is to give it away! So I'm sharing this very precious recipe with all of you today :) Over the years, I have jazzed up the soup a bit, added ginger and a few fresh herbs to pep up the flavor. Somehow, I think my great-grandma would be proud.


Ingredients:
- 1-2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts (sometimes called chicken ribs)
- 1 can stewed or diced tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 7-8 celery stalks, chopped
- 3-4 large carrots, chopped OR 1 bag baby carrots
- Noodles of your choice (my mom always used ABC noodles, but I can't find them in many stores these days, so I experiment with anything fun and fancy looking)
- 3-4 Chicken bullion cubes (I love the Knorr brand) OR 2-3 32-oz. boxes of chicken stock (Whole Foods 365 is my favorite)
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Oregano & Basil (fresh chopped is best, but you can use dried, too)
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and pressed
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- Salt & Pepper (I like to use Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)

Method:
1. In a large stockpot, place the chicken breasts, the stewed tomatoes, the chopped onion, the chopped celery and the baby carrots. Generously go to town with the salt and pepper. I mean it. Get furious. We need to get some flavor going.

2. If Using Bullion:
Place three large cubes in the stockpot and fill with water, leaving about 1.5-2 inches from the top empty.
If Using Chicken Stock:
Pour 2 boxes (64 oz.) of stock over the ingredients in the stockpot. Add a few cups of water to the mixture, leaving about 1.5-2 inches from the top of the pot empty.

3. Heat stockpot on stove over low heat. Cover.

4. While that begins slowly heating up, begin chopping up the herbs. Chop the garlic, ginger, basil oregano, and any other delicious green herbs you happen to have in your fridge (parsley, rosemary and thyme are great additions, too!) I just like to throw a medley of herbs in, because they're so good for you and they make the flavor soooo intoxicating. Add all the herbs to the pot and recover.

5. Simmer this mixture on low for 5-7 hours. You want to, very slowly, boil the chicken and give the vegetables time to soften. If the mixture starts to boil, stir it a bit and turn the temperature even lower. If you find that some of the broth has burned off (as mine always does), you can add more chicken stock to the mixture. If you used bullion cubes, add a few more cups of water and another cube. Just keep that soup savory! After a few hours you can uncover the mixture and continue on with low heat.

6. Once the chicken is fully cooked through, you want to remove the breasts from the pot. This takes a little finagle-ing, so use a large slotted spoon and do your best to remove the chicken without removing anything else. Place chicken on a large plate and cut all the white breast meat off, placing back into the soup. You want to make sure you're removing all the skin, bones and fat from the meat so that you can just eat the chicken. Sidenote - this part always grosses me out a bit, but its SO worth the 5 minutes it takes. Place all the good meat back in the pot and stir it around. Add a little bit more salt and pepper.

7. Continue on low heat for another 30 minutes.

8. During the last 30 minutes of heating the soup, follow the recipe on the package to prepare the noodles. It should take between 15-20 minutes to prep/cook the entire package, depending on the kind you choose, then drain and set aside. You can combine the noodles, once they're cooked, into the soup, but I never do. I don't really know why, its just not the way my mom did it. I'm a follower.

9. To serve, we spoon the noodles up first, then pour the broth/vegetable/chicken mixture over top.

Voila! Slurp Away!
Mmmm its so delicious, I melt every time. I like to serve this with buttery Ritz Crackers. On a crazy winter day, we might make a grilled cheese to go along with it. But this is seriously the BEST feel-better soup in the world, and it's been tried-and-true in my family for over 50 years. Go ahead.
Those allergies haven't bested you yet. Happy souping!
*This post is entirely dedicated to my sweet mother, who has probably made hundreds of batches of Grandma Soup in my lifetime. We share the same laugh, the same cheeks, the same regretful woes of allergy season, but we also share the delight of this familiar, favored family recipe. Thank you for passing on the tradition of being a happy cook in the kitchen. Everything I know is because of you :)

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It's a good thing, since I make it excessively :)

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  2. Kristen, this is a beautiful tribute to your mom and hers and hers yet again. It ialmost made me want to cook it! No not really but I will bet it is so good.

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    Replies
    1. Save yourself. I don't want you to hurt yourself in the kitchen. I'll make it for you, hehe.

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