NOTE: All quantities are very rough and are to be regarded as suggestions, not rules.
Big Heavy Pot (I use my Le Creuset 7-qt. round dutch oven)
flame diffuser (optional--I don't use one for this but depending on the size of your pot and the control of your gas burner if you have one you may need it)
Tongs (optional but helpful)
Separate bowl/tupperware for chicken
Time: Many hours.
Attention Span: Once set up, requires attention about every 20 minutes until done.
1 smallish fryer/broiler chicken (under 5 lbs, more like 3.5-4 if you can find it)(get one with a gut bag if possible)
1 large yellow onion, peeled but otherwise left whole
1 or 2 carrots (or one big baseball-bat cross-sectional giant tough old carrot)
1 or 2 icicle turnips also known as parsnips (ie the ones that look like white carrots)(same sizing rule as for carrots; if you can fine one tough old huge monster, use it)
1 bunch dill, fresh
1 bunch broadleaf or "Italian" parsley, fresh
About 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
A few celery ribs
A few whole cloves garlic (no more than 4), peeled but not mashed
Salt (kosher or flake)
1 or 2 bullion cubes, chicken flavored or veggie flavored (I use cheapass Knox ones, but you can use the more pricey Knorr, which I sometimes use--if using Knorr use only 1)
(very optional--white wine, left over from previous meal/night)
Super Duper Special Bonus Points Optional--fresh unripe eggs from chicken processor--I have only had this a few times in my life (much in childhood, twice in adulthood)
To prepare: Make sure your pot is clean. Rinse off chicken and put in pot. Rinse off all "parts" in gut bag except for the liver and put in pot (save liver for poaching in boiling soup later if you want, or freeze/save/feed to the cat/etc). Peel the onion and put whole, in the pot. Ditto for garlic. Peel or scrub turnips and carrots and put in also, Wash dill and parsely, cut off root ends, put that in also. Ditto for celery. Put in a palmful of whole black peppercorns. Add a large palmful of salt and put in the unwrapped bullion cubes.
Put in JUST enough water to cover--you don't want to have the pot boil over and you will add more water later. Bring to a brisk boil. If it foams over, just take the lid off and let it boil down a bit until manageable. If necessary, depending on how big a pot you have, use the tongs to turn the chicken over once the fat begins to render out of it. In any event, the veggies will eventually begin to collapse and you will be able to get the lid on (this is where a heavy cast-iron pot is useful). As you cook it down, add water and pour in any white wine that you may have (I used about a cup and a half of decent Chardonnay that I had opened last week--this is a great way to get rid of white that may have been opened too long).
Just keep boiling the bejesus out of the soup until the bones are rather loose on the legs of the chicken. At this point, take out the tongs. If you take hold of the end of a leg bone with said tongs and it pulls out easily, you're ready to go to the next step. First, start by working the tongs in the boiling soup and pull out as many of the large bones and discard. If you press on the breast, it should collapse the body cavity. Pull out whatever other big bones you can--wing, etc. Let any bits of meat that have fallen off into the soup be. Use the tongs to knock the meat off the dark meat areas and let it be in the soup. Then take the tongs and lift the breast out and put on a plate/in a bowl. This should free up a lot of room in the pot; add more water to top it up. If you are lucky enough to have unripe eggs, put them in now. If you want to poach the liver in the soup, this is the time also. Continue to boil for a while until the onion falls apart easily, along with the celery (the root veggies will remain somewhat intact). Remember, you'll have to boil at least an hour and a half-two hours to get the chicken to elegantly disintegrate properly.
The soup will be an odd swampy khaki color but will taste great. DO NOT SKIM THE FAT OFF.
Season with more salt to taste; however, it's a good idea to wait and season per serving, as hot soup tastes less salty when it's first cooked.
Now, you can eat as-is. Or, you could be all fancy and strain it.
Here's what to do next:
With the chicken breast/large bits of meat: Chill. Make the world's best chicken salad or do one of my favorite childhood sammies: Use forks to pull apart the much-cooked breast meat. Take two slices of white bread, spread with ketchup. Make sandwich with white meat. This was one of my absolute favorite lunchbox items as a child. Do NOT get fancy with wholegrain bread on this one--it's white bread or bust.
If you strain the soup (as opposed to just serving it with chunks of meat and veg in it): Carefully sort through the sodden mass of veggies and chicken bits for bits of bone (especially look out for ribs, bits of back, etc). Take bread crumbs or panko flakes and at least one egg. Add salt and pepper but only if needed. Resist the urge to add any other seasoning. Put the mess through a food grinder or a food processor or just mash with a fork, and mix in egg (yes I realize this makes in No Longer Kosher--no cooking mother and child, but it's authentic) and crumbs/panko. Make croquettes and coat in more crumbs/panko. Fry in heavily salted chicken fat.
Let soup cool in the pot; put pot in fridge once it's cool enough to handle. Put away/freeze the next day. Again, keep the fat IN THE SOUP.
The croquettes and boiled chicken, served with soup and the white meat, and either a steamed veg or salad, makes a real, honest-to-G-d "Chicken Soup Dinner" that I grew up with. Serve soup as-is or float bread/crumbly crackers in it. Have with wine to induce instant sleep/head cold abatement.
Enjoy and please share your results if you attempt--link to my email is on the homepage.
PS--read the chicken label carefully! When I went shopping today, I discovered that the smallish chicken that I had tossed into my cart was some kind of organic, free-range thing that went to Harvard or something and cost $13.80. For a fucking 4-pounder. Never again. Shit. This better be the best fucking chicken soup I ever made...
I hope you all like this bit of family history.