October 21, 2002
All Day Chicken Soup

a bowl of chicken soup

One of the nice things about not having a job is that I have the time to cook all day if I want to. I started cooking this at 1pm and we didn't eat until 7:30. The stove was on the entire time, everything was made from scratch and cooked in the same pot. Although I didn't add anything special, the final soup was rich with flavor. I think the secret was cooking the stock for a long time -- at least four hours (though if I had the time I would have cooked it more), and then using the stock to cook the rest of the components.

I started with three or four raw chicken carcasses that we had saved in the freezer. After defrosting, I separated them into smaller parts and browned them very well in the stock pot with a bit of olive oil. If you ever watch Mario Batali on the Food Network, you realize that he lets his pans get very very hot before he uses them. As a consequence, when he puts any liquid in the hot pan, a huge cloud of steam erupts from the pan as the liquid is vaporized on contact. I was so proud of the fact that I was able to achieve the same effect in the kitchen when making the stock. It took quite a while to sear all of the chicken carcass parts since I wanted them to develop a dark brown crust and didn't want to crowd them in the pot. After I had finished, the pot had been over the burner for about half an hour and there was a good quarter inch of chicken fat covering the dark brown fond on the bottom. When I finally added some water to deglaze the bottom, a thick column of steam violently shot out of the pot for a good twenty seconds.

After browning the chicken (and smoking up the entire apartment), I added quite a bit of water (maybe fifteen cups) as well as some roughly chopped vegetables. I covered the pot and let the mix cook for about four hours, then strained the solids from the stock. I was left with a dark brown broth that would make a perfect base for the soup. But first I needed to create some carbohydrates. We had some leftover spaetzle in the fridge, but not enough for the whole soup so I needed to make more. I had seen pasta cooked in brodo (broth) and thought it would be a good idea to do the same with spaetzle. (Actually, testing this out was one of the reasons for making this soup.) So, after the chicken stock had been strained and was reducing, I whipped up a batch of spaetzle and cooked it in the still boiling broth. If you don't have a spaetzle maker, I can't recommend enough that you get one; making spaetzle without one is truly a trying experience.

For vegetables, in addition to a few whole cloves of garlic, there was the usual trio of celery, carrots and onions. I had also poached some chicken breasts in the broth and added them to the soup as well. The meal was plated with spaetzle in the bottom of the bowl, soup of course, and some freshly grilled bread cubes that really added a nice finishing touch.


3 cups flour, sifted
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
optional herbs or other flavoring (we used parsley)

Bring a whole mess of water (or brodo) to a boil. Mix everything together in a bowl. Use the spaetzle maker (or food mill, or ricer) over the boiling water to form the dough into little spaetzles. Rescue the cooked spaetzles from the water. When they are done they will float.