As a home cook, I am always looking for new and improved ways to make my family their favorite dishes so they never feel like a single dish exhausts their taste buds. When the weather is cold outside and you come to my house for dinner, you will likely be treated to a soup or stew that is guaranteed to warm your insides.
My first cooking experience as a kid was making soup, although it was condensed and came out of a can. As a young adult living on my own for the first time, I tried to make “homemade” chicken noodle soup, but this version consisted of canned broth and adding leftover cooked chicken and frozen vegetables. That counts as homemade, right? The best part of this initial homemade attempt was that my curiosity began to stir. I wanted to know exactly how to make homemade chicken broth. I honestly had no idea, so I looked it up in a cookbook. My initial reaction was that it looked time consuming and I wasn’t having any part of it. Then one snow-bound afternoon, I decided to try it, and I found that not only is homemade chicken broth easy to make, but it tastes much better than anything I had ever purchased in the store.
Homemade chicken broth is devoid of the preservatives found in store-bought versions, and using fresh ingredients gives the flavor depth. As the years have passed, I have made my homemade chicken broth too many times to count. It is the one recipe that has never failed me on my worst day in the kitchen.
The versatility of soups made with homemade chicken broth expands far beyond where your imagination can take you. In addition to my recipe for super simple homemade chicken broth, I have included two recipes for chicken soups that are sure to please a crowd. Get ready to climb on board because this isn’t your mama’s chicken noodle soup anymore.
HOMEMADE CHICKEN BROTH
12 cups water
4-5 lbs. bone-in chicken breasts, thighs or a combination of both
2 ribs of celery, cut into thirds
¼ lb. (or 4 oz.) carrots
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. kosher salt
In a large Dutch oven, combine all of the ingredients. Bring the water to a hard boil. Allow the water to boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the broth for at least 1 hour. Turn off the heat and allow the broth to cool to room temperature.
Using tongs, remove the cooked chicken to a cutting board and separate the cooked meat from the bone, fat and skin. Place the cooked chicken into a plastic zipper bag and save for your soup recipe.
Remove all of the large cooked vegetables from the broth and discard. Pour the broth through a sieve into another large pot if you are making your soup immediately. If you are storing your broth for a later meal, be certain that your storage container can hold up to 12 cups of broth (at least 3 quarts).
The first soup recipe I would like to share combines the decadence of a cream soup with the rich nutty flavor of wild rice.
CREAM OF CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups low fat milk
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1 lb. shredded cooked chicken
2 cups cooked wild rice
½ lb. (or 8 oz.) carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
Black pepper and kosher salt to taste
In a large Dutch oven, melt your butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour, sage, thyme and a pinch of salt over the melted butter evenly. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the flour is well absorbed and begins to dry out for 3 minutes.
Slowly pour in the milk and the stock into the pan, continually whisking the liquid so that it doesn’t form any lumps. Continue to whisk the soup until it thickens. Add the carrots, onion, celery, chicken and wild rice to your cream soup. Reduce the heat to medium low and allow the vegetables to cook slowly. The soup will be ready to serve when your vegetables are fork tender.
The second soup I would like to share has a spicy Mexican flare. Depending on the taste buds of your audience, you can add a small finely diced jalapeno for a little extra kick.
CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup plain tomato sauce
2 cans (15 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can (15-16 oz.) black beans, drained
1 can (15-16 oz.) chili beans, drained
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cups frozen whole kernel sweet corn
1 lb. shredded cooked chicken
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cilantro
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
(If you are short on dried herbs, you may substitute 2 tbsp. of low sodium taco seasoning mix instead).
In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions, allow to cook for 3-5 minutes or until they begin to turn translucent. Then, add the remaining ingredients into the pot, stir to ensure that the dried herbs/seasonings are well incorporated into the liquid. Bring the soup to a rolling boil on high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low, allow the soup to cook for 30 minutes. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and crushed tortillas as a garnish.
About Valerie McGann
Valerie is a contributing writer for The Mill Magazine and our foodie reviewer. When she's not cooking for her family, she's blogging about cooking, or you'll find her on local TV as a guest chef.