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Chicken soup

January 20, 2010

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Serves 6

Chicken backs and necks make great, full-bodied soup, but they’re not always available. If you buy whole chickens, save the giblets (except the livers) in a plastic bag in the freezer and make the soup when you have enough. Chicken wings are a terrific, inexpensive alternative. Pour boiling water over them before you cook them, then transfer the wings to the pot; this helps produce a clear broth. Peel the carrots but leave them whole in the soup (cut them up later when they’re cooked). Cut onions into wedges. After simmering, let the chicken cool and pick off the nuggets of meat (this is the tedious part). Cool the stock separately from the meat and vegetables. Refrigerate both and skim the fat from the surface of the nutritious, jellied stock.

5 pounds chicken bones (backs, necks, or wings)
2 onions, quartered
4 carrots, quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup soup pasta (alphabets, flakes, tiny shells, orzo, crushed spaghetti)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
1. In a large heatproof bowl, set the chicken bones. Pour over enough boiling water to cover them completely. Set aside for 15 minutes.

2. With tongs, transfer the bones from the hot water to a soup pot. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Add enough cold water to cover the bones by 2 inches.

3. Bring to a boil. With a large metal spoon, skim the scum that rises to the surface. Continue skimming until the surface is clear. Lower the heat, add the bay leaf, peppercorns, and salt. Cover the pot and simmer the bones for 1 1/2 hours. Skim the surface every 20 minutes.

4. Strain the soup into a large plastic container. Transfer the vegetables and chicken bones to another container (discard the bay leaf and peppercorns). Leave both to cool. Meanwhile, when the bones are cool enough to handle, discard all the skin and bones; return the meat to the vegetables. Cover the containers and refrigerate for at least several hours or for up to 3 days.

5. In a large saucepan of salted water, cook the pasta for 6 minutes or until it is tender but still has some bite. Drain into a colander.

6. With a slotted spoon, skim off and discard the fat from the soup. Transfer the soup to a pot. Add the vegetables and chicken and bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Add the pasta. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Sheryl Julian