My favourite soup happens to be chicken. But the chicken soup I grew up with had little to do with making a mirepoix and is closer to broth – with the addition of ginger, salt, and sometimes, pork. Having chicken soup on my mind, my eyes homed in on $1.29 chicken carcasses at the local Korean grocer. I eagerly grabbed three trays of the saran-bound beasts and was excited enough to tweet about it. I even boasted to my mother about the find. But it got better. I discovered afterward that each tray had three chickens apiece and so I had nine carcasses with which to make an intense stock and soup from. Oh yes. And so, here’s my how-to for soup that’ll lead into making a tender and delicious chicken, Hainanese style.
As a note, I grabbed my stock pot and started to cram the beasties in, but my plans ran afoul (bawk bawk) when I realized I was only going to get six carcasses in there. So here’s a tip – only six chicken carcasses will fit in a 12 qt pot. The soup is pretty simple, and it’s more that you have to babysit the pot for the first 30 minutes and then you can ignore the pot for the rest of the time.
What you’ll need
- 6 chicken carcasses
- 0.5″ round of ginger, smashed
- A chunk of pork, “a bit smaller than your fist” my mom says. (optional)
- 1 tbsp Salt
- Stock pot, 12qt minimum
- Fine strainer
- Big strainer
- Parchment paper
- Wooden spoon
- Place chicken in your stock pot. Toss in your ginger (I like to smash the ginger to expose more surface area to the water, but you don’t have to), salt, and your pork if you opted for it (I don’t usually). Fill your pot with cold water so that it just covers the chicken. Though, if you’re like me, your chicken won’t fit in the pot so some will stick out. Not a huge deal. You can mash that down later after it has boiled a bit. The point here is that you don’t want to use more water than you need to extract all the chickeny goodness.
- Put your pot on the stove and turn it on to high and bring it up to a boil.
- Now, while the pot is coming up to a boil (it’ll take a while), now is a good time to go and make yourself a parchment lid. This allows for water to evaporate, but much more slowly than an open pot. The parchment lid also helps prevent surface soup-skin from forming.
- Once your water is at a rolling boil, turn the burner down to low. You want to have bubbles just breaking the surface. Soup isn’t made by boiling the crap out of chicken quickly – it’s made by simmering it slowly.
- Ah, now for the fun part. Now that your water is at a low simmer, move the pot so that it is offset over the burner. Basically, have 1/3 of your pot hanging off. This helps the soup scum gather on one side and make for easier skimming. Grab your fine strainer and a small bowl and start skimming. You’ll get a lot of oil while you’re at it and that’s fine. This part should take about 20-30 minutes until there is no more scum. You can reserve the oil for other uses if you wish and toss the scum.
- Center the pot back on the element and place your parchment lid on top. Check that your water is at a low simmer – I set mine at 2 on the stove knob. You can now putter around for (at least) a couple hours, checking on the pot every now and then to make sure all is well.
- It’ll be ready when you taste it and it has that chicken-punch! Let it cool.
- Strain your soup into a container (or another pot) to hold your soup. I know that I’ve gotten it to where I like it when I get soup-jello after refrigeration.
You can serve it with pasta, drop dumplings into it, or just have it plain.
The first round is the good stuff, so drink and eat that. But I tend to go and do a second round of soup with the bones for making, say, extra-tasty Hainanese-style chicken.