This is not my mother’s recipe, for she didn’t make chicken soup. She made vegetable soup and split pea soup. In a frisky mood, she sometimes made vichysoisse, but she served it hot, not sure why. Maybe cold soup seemed silly to her. It was fine. But I don’t remember her ever making chicken soup. When we had that, it was from a red and white can, often for lunch with a grilled cheese sandwich.
I did use recipes originally when I made chicken soup—I have a recipe card from when I first got married hubristically titled “Chicken Vegetable Soup Supreme.” My experimental contribution to the annals of chicken soup was adding a chopped apple. But now when I make chicken soup, I go with the flow. If I have time, or if I have some in the freezer, I make a separate chicken stock. But often I just poach the chicken and use that poaching liquid as the basis for the soup.
This time, I have on hand
1 whole chicken breast, skin on
4-5 carrots, both the regular orange and also some maroon ones I got at the market
3 medium potatoes
1 stalk celery with some leaves on it
½ red pepper
a big pinch of tarragon
a corresponding pinch of dried mint
a pinch of basil
a few shakes of cayenne pepper
a slug of white wine (about a half cup, I’d guess)
salt and pepper to taste
Put the chicken in a pot with one of the onions and the celery. Cover with water and throw in a few shakes of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for abt 20 minutes. Take chicken out and cool, then take the meat off the bones and cut bite-size; discard skin. Other recipes always say to discard the solids in a stock, but I often just cut them up and put them in with the rest of the soup. If this is a bad idea, someone please let me know. Put the chopped carrots, onions, and red pepper in the pan with the chicken-poaching water and the wine. Add a little water if it seems like not enough. Add the herbs and the pepper and a bit of salt, and cook until the carrots are approaching doneness. Add chopped potatoes and simmer for maybe 10 minutes more. Add the chicken.
At this point, I taste the broth and sometimes add a bit more of this or that—more of what’s already in there (basil, tarragon, mint), or something else that seems to have potential: a bit of smoked paprika, a tiny pinch of oregano, a little turmeric. Also a good time to add a cup of cooked rice or pasta, if you’ve got some leftovers you’d like to use profitably. And this is the time for the salt and pepper to-taste.
This is a crowded soup, with chunks of vegetable and meat, and flecks of herbs floating in it—not to everyone’s taste maybe, but very good.