My mother has lots of signature dishes, but one of my favorites is also one of her simplest: she calls it chicken "stoup," because it's a hearty chicken soup with more meat and veggies than broth ("Stew" plus "soup" equals "stoup" -- get it?). Over the years, I've adopted it as a staple, perfect for when the weather starts to turn chilly. My stoup has evolved to be somewhat different from my mother's -- for example, I never include potatoes, and I go pretty heavy on the lemon juice, dill and black pepper at the end. I do believe it's worth the effort of buying chicken on the bone and cooking it right in the soup before taking it off the bone in order to create a really rich, reinforced broth. Sometimes I add a little pasta -- fusilli, farfalle -- right at the end (I cook it separately in plenty of salted water, until just al dente), but that's up to you. —Merrill Stubbs
4 to 6
lbs. chicken pieces, on the bone (dark meat is best, but you can use a mix if you'd like)
Remove the fat from the chicken pieces, saving it if you like to make your own schmaltz or something. Put the chicken in a large soup pot. Cut one of the carrots into large chunks and add these to the pot with the chicken. Cut one stalk of celery and half the onion into similar sized chunks and add to the pot. Add the chicken stock and then enough water to submerge the chicken and vegetables. Add a generous pinch or two of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat so that it simmers gently. During the first 5 minutes, skim any of the foam that accumulates on the surface with a shallow spoon. Cook the chicken for about 10 minutes, just until it's firm and opaque. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and let the chicken cool for a few minutes while you continue to simmer the stock, partially covered.
Remove the chicken from the bones and reserve the meat, returning the bones to the pot. Re-cover and simmer the stock for at least 45 minutes more. Remove the bones and the vegetables with a slotted spoon and discard, and then strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot.
Cut the remaining carrots and celery into bite-sized chunks, and then do the same with the onion. Return the stock to a simmer and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Add the carrots and onion to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the celery and cook for another 3 minutes, then stir in the dill, a good amount of lemon juice and several grindings of black pepper.
When you're ready to serve the soup, tear or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pot. Simmer for a minute or so, just until the chicken has a chance to reheat. (Be vigilant here -- this is the step that determines whether your chicken is tender or dry.) Taste once more for salt, and then serve immediately in shallow bowls with some good, crusty bread.