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It is time to talk about chicken again.

Why? you may rightly ask.

Think of it this way: If I were a deejay on a radio station, I would be playing a request. This is the same thing. Several readers have approached me, mostly at farmers markets, to ask about chicken and chicken stock.

Is it possible to make chicken stock, they want to know, with a whole chicken without ruining the meat?

I am here to help, as I do it all the time. Indeed, it's become a weekly tradition, or nearly so.

On a typical Sunday, I buy a whole chicken or two. On Monday, I poach it, pull off the meat, return the carcass to the poaching liquid and then simmer it gently all night. The poached chicken provides dinner on Monday evening and by Tuesday, there is a delicious soup that lasts for several days. Unless the chicken is very small, there is enough meat for a second and sometimes even a third meal.

This is very easy to do at home and once you get the hang of it, you may want to do it weekly, too.

When you make something like chicken such a major part of your diet, you want it to be the best, the most healthful you can find. And we have great chicken in Sonoma County now, which is much of my motivation. I'm also inspired by Lucas's love of my soups.

He's my grandson and, at twelve-and-a-half, is well into the murky territory of adolescence, though the little boy still shows himself frequently. One of his favorite things to eat is what he calls my vegetable soup. It's not what most people think of when they think of vegetable soup, not at all. It begins with homemade chicken stock, shallots or onions, garlic and a few potatoes. When the potatoes are tender, I add whatever greens I happen to have gathered. There's often sorrel from the garden, arugula from the farmers market, radish greens, beet greens, kales or chards and always a big bunch of good Italian parsley, which prevents the soup from taking on an unpleasant gray color. Spinach, too, helps keep the soup a pleasant shade of green.

This soup is delicious hot and delicious cold and best when it has a big scoop of whole-milk yogurt added at the last minute. Lucas likes it for breakfast, for an after school-snack and for dinner. When I tell him it's gone, his look of disappointment all but breaks my heart.

How cool is it that an almost-teenage boy who loves pizza, cheeseburgers, candy, chips and soda also loves this healthy and slightly unusual soup? Whenever I eat with him, I feel so very lucky.


Once you have made chicken stock at home a time or two, you won't need to refer to a recipe. Vary this according to the season, to your preferences and to what you have on hand or in the garden. If I have leeks or spring garlic, I add some of the green stalks. Sometimes I include ginger, sometimes I don't. Now and then I'll put in a few curls of lemon zest and now and then I add hot chiles or spices, depending on the soup I'm planning to make. What I don't do is measure anything or think too much about it. To make the stock in a slow cooker, see the note that follows the main recipe.

The Simplest Stove-top Chicken Stock

Makes about 2 quarts

1 local pastured chicken, rinsed

— Chicken gizzard, heart and neck, if available

— Kosher salt

1 onion or 2 to 3 shallots, trimmed and quartered

1 to 2 carrots, cut in chunks

3 or 4 Italian parsley sprigs

— Bay leaf, optional

— Several fresh ginger slices, optional

1 teaspoon white or black peppercorns

Season the chicken inside and out with salt and put it into a soup pot or large saucepan. Cover it with water and add the onion or shallots, carrots, parsley, bay leaf and ginger, if using, and peppercorns. Set over medium-high heat and when the water just reaches a boil, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let sit for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid, set it on a platter and let cool to room temperature. Cut or pull the meat from the bones, set the meat aside and return the carcass, any bones you've pulled off and any juices that have collected on the platter to the pot. Add the chicken skin to the pot, too. (Use the chicken meat to make salads, sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and pasta dishes.)

Set the pot over very low heat and simmer for several hours, until the bones have nearly disintegrated and the stock is flavorful. Top off with water as needed.

Cool, strain and refrigerate for up to 3 days until ready to use. Skim off the layer of fat that forms on top of the stock.

Note: You can easily make this stock in a slow-cooker and if you have a stove that you don't trust leaving on overnight, it is the best technique. After removing the meat from the bones, put the bones into a slow cooker, add the poaching liquid and set on high. When the liquid begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 12 to 18 hours. Strain the broth into a clean container, cool, refrigerate and remove the layer of fat on top of the cooled stock.


This soup is a template, easily adapted to personal preferences and whatever vegetables are at hand.

Lucas' Vegetable Soup

Makes 8 to 10 servings

— Olive oil

1 yellow onion or 2 shallots, minced

1 carrot, peeled and minced

2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced

— Kosher salt

— Black or white pepper in a mill

2 quarts homemade chicken stock

— A big bowlful (approximately 6 to 8 cups, loosely packed) of sliced or chopped greens (see Note below)

1 bunch Italian parsley, largest stems discard, chopped

— Whole milk yogurt

— Hawaiian Chile Water, bottle hot sauce or other hot condiment, optional

Pour a little olive oil into a soup pot set over medium-low heat, add the shallots or onion and carrots and saute until limp and fragrant, about 9 minutes. Add the garlic, saute 2 minutes more and stir in the potatoes. Season fairly generously with salt and several turns of pepper.

Pour in the chicken stock, increase the heat to high and when the stock boils, return the heat to medium-low. Simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes; spoon off and discard any foam that forms on the surface.

Stir in greens and the parsley and simmer until the greens are tender. The exact time will vary depending on variety; kale and beet greens will take longer than spinach, radish greens and sorrel.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Puree with an immersion blender, taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Serve hot or chilled, topped with a very generous dollop of yogurt. Serve chile water, hot sauce or other condiments alongside.

The soup will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for several days.

Note: You can use just one type of green — spinach, for example — or a combination. Good options include radish greens, beet greens, Lacinato kale, chard, spinach, French sorrel, nettles and dandelion greens. If using nettles, be sure NOT to touch them while they are raw.

Variation: To make a root vegetable soup, omit the greens and add about 4 to 6 cups sliced roasted carrots, golden beets, parsnips or a combination of all three after the potatoes are tender. Add a handful of chopped Italian parsley, simmer for just a few minutes, cool slightly and puree with an immersion blender.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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