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When I feel not great about something or something just feels off, I make a pot of my Aunt Renee's Chicken Soup. It might not be the answer to world peace, but it is the fastest, most sure route I know to feeling taken care of and in touch with all of the great women who came before me. It's not just my favorite comfort food, it's my favorite food, period.
My dearly departed Aunt Renee, who was quite a character, was famous for many things (from her fake Louis Vuitton bags to her stories about working in the hair salon in the basement of her Brooklyn apartment building), but her chicken soup looms large. When she left us, I put an obituary in the New York Times that read simply, “I will take care of the soup.” Here it is. It is unequivocally my favorite food in the world.
The small victory here is not just carrying on traditions, but also learning how to make a good chicken soup; because in doing so, you learn to make chicken stock—the backbone (no pun intended) for so many things in the kitchen. You can put a whole chicken directly in the pot, but I like to separate it so that the white meat is easy to retrieve early on and, also, the whole pot is easier to stir during cooking.
- One 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, (2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 thighs, and 2 legs), backbone reserved
- One pound chicken wings
- 2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, roughly chopped
- 4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 head garlic, halved horizontally so that the cloves are exposed
- 1 handful fresh Italian parsley sprigs, stems reserved and leaves finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- Josher salt
- 8 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3 quarts water
- 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 handful roughly chopped fresh dill
Excerpted—with supplements!—from Julia's book, Small Victories.