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Feb 12, 2012 08:04 PM

Chicken soup: getting started

When you shop at a regular grocery store for chicken to make soup, is there a particular kind of chicken you are best to use? Is a Roasting Chicken an old chicken? I buy a whole bird and ask the butcher to cut it up.
I freeze the breasts to roast later for chicken salad with apples, golden raisons. Greek yoghurt, celery and curry powder.,Having purchased the bird for the soup, do you put it in a pot and boil or do you brown it first to get some fond?
I tried roasting the chicken first but found the process left me without the desirable flavor of fat.
I've finally learned to take the chicken out of the pot when it's done, debone it and set aside, then add the vegetables and let them cook, then return the chicken to finish.
I don't add noodles to the soup. I add soup to the noodles/rice. If I add the starches to the soup, it makes the soup too thick/soggy.
I've used the boil method and sometimes there was no scum. I wonder why. Hmmm.
I have skimmed off the fat, but find that makes the soup bland.
I've tried adding a very small head of cabbage. I liked it but I like the soup better without it.
Read somewhere a caveat: not removing an errant bay leaf while cooking the soup may remind you of its presence, even though chewed up, on its way out of you.

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  1. Chickens don't have much flavor these days, so I cheat. My chicken soup is based on turkey necks. Chop the necks into two or three pieces, sear in a little oil or duck fat (roasting would work as well, if not better), then make broth or stock. Once that's done I cook a cut up chicken or parts in the broth/stock. This way I don't need to overcook the chicken trying to make a decent broth.

    Yes, cook the rice or noodles separately and add just before serving. Nothing worse than soggy starch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Zeldog

      Great idea to reinforce the flavors.

      1. re: Zeldog

        you're not really looking for flavor from the meat. it's from the bones and other inside bits. professional kitchens do not use bones with flesh on them for stocks.

      2. Most often, I roast a 6 to 8 lb bird for dinner, then pull off all the rest of the meat, dumping the skin, bones and tough stuff into a soup pot. I add a cup or two of water to the roasting pan that has all the drippings and good brown bits in it, swirl it around a little on a hot burner to loosen up the stuck bits and dump that into the soup pot. Cover the bones with water, add a couple carrots, celery stalks, an onion with skin, some thyme, dill and a bay leaf, and let it simmer for 3 or 4 hours. Refrigerate the whole lot overnight, and strain it out the next afternoon before I make soup out of it.

        As far as I know, a roaster is just big, not old. I think it has a richer flavor than the little 3 pounders, though. I agree with you about the noodles. Hate when they are flabby in the soup.

        8 Replies
        1. re: jmcarthur8

          I like using that method. I learned not to throw out the fat when roasting, but to save it for the soup.
          Sometimes, I freeze nicer pieces of chicken meat to make chicken/curry salad or slice-ready for panini.

          1. re: jmcarthur8

            ...on the noodles/dumplings, I make a fresh batch of noodles each time I want left over, reheated soup. I used to automatically use the "extra wide" noodles (which really aren't that wide),
            but lately I've been eating Cut Fideo...the exact opposite...sometimes brown/wild rice.

            1. re: jmcarthur8

              Variations I recommend: Replace a carrot with parsnip. Stick a clove each in a quarter or half onion. Add several whole black peppercorns. (Cooks Illustrated recommends using ground chicken for a flavor boost, but I've never tried that.)

              Try to use necks and feet. Getting chickens from Asian markets, which tend to come with the entire head and neck (heads bobbing in the stock are fun, but I don't waste anything) and feet. Chicken feet also come separately packaged in those markets.

              Finally, the chicken that is used to make the soup is not the chicken that is eaten in the soup: the chicken used to make the soup is fed to the dog. Roast another chicken and shred (Do.Not.Dice.) it up for be eaten in the soup (I like to lade the soup over it rather than re-cook it).

              1. re: Karl S

                PS: Interesting discovery. When I buy rotisserie chickens (Costco), I buy a pair, debone them entirely, and throw the bones in the pressure cooker with all my usual stock ingredients, and make stock. Then I freeze most of the stock and ladle some over shredded chicken in subsequent days.

                This weekend, I forgot I didn't have carrots. But I did have golden beets from the last farmer's market of the season. I peeled those (beet peels can be quite bitter; normally, I don't peel stock ingredients), quartered them, and used them instead of carrots. And, lo, it's better than with carrots.

                1. re: Karl S

                  I'll be doing that next time I have beets on hand, sounds delicious. Carrots have such an off taste sometimes, especially this time of year.

                  1. re: coll

                    This was an interesting gamble for me. I often find carrot unbalanced in flavor. The golden beets seemed to be better in balance. It didn't quite smell the same in the pot, but the flavors on the tongue the next day were better. Who knew?

                2. re: Karl S

                  Karl S
                  Yes, I see that some chicken soups are made with a broth created from one chicken. That and the vegetables can be tossed after their flavors are given up. Then another chicken is cooked to add to the finished soup. I didn't know this.

                3. re: jmcarthur8

                  Right there with you jm! I stuff my chicken with a whole head of garlic, a lemon, and an onion that's been quartered. All of that goes in the pot with the carcass and skin, carrots, celery and thyme.

                4. If you roast the chicken before, you can deglaze the pan drippings with water and add that to the stock pot.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Maximilien

                    In the past my mistake was tossing out the pan drippings and the flavor of the soup suffered.
                    So, I've learned to have respect for the fat I euphamistically call pan drippings by using it.

                    1. re: Maximilien

                      Why not just sear/brown the chicken in the crock pot and then begin the soup?
                      Does the roasting instead make for a better flavor?

                      1. re: sylvan

                        (personal experience)

                        I find that roasting give a deeper flavour than just browning the meat; you can also roast some aromatic vegetables at the same time (onions, celery, carrots), and the sweetness will give the broth something different.

                        But that will result in a different broth flavour than just boiling the chicken.

                        1. re: Maximilien

                          I agree, Maximilien. The roasted skin and bones just give a richer flavor to the stock.

                    2. My caribbean/asian market sells a pair of 2 pound birds labeled soup chicken. They are dirt cheap and are still tough and rubbery after 5 hours of simmering. But the stock is awesome. Beats any of the free range birds I get in the area. They are normally tender in 3 hours or so and are edible.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                        why do you think the tough/rubbery birds render more flavor to the broth (I assume you don't eat the meat) than the happy range birds?

                      2. Stewing hens are both cheaper than roasting chickens and make great stock. Necks are useful as well, as Zeldog said.