There is nothing like a bowl of homemade chicken soup to nourish the mind, body, and soul. With a little homestead humor, I hope to present a recipe that is not only nourishing, delicious, and a regular around our home, but invite you in to a glimpse of what life on the homestead is really like.
Once Upon a Time…
Ok, it was not really revenge but rather a necessity. One of our five roosters somehow got it in his head to knock baby boy, age 3, over and jump on his back. Well, he had talon marks and bruises all over from that incident. Unfortunately, no one saw which one was the culprit so nothing could be done. A few days later, I was shooing the roosters out of my herb garden when one of the roosters, the alpha, took it as a challenge. He puffed up his very manly chest and did a HIYA kick from standing position. Very impressive. Then he ran toward me and kept coming again. Not very impressive. Terrifying actually. I could see it was a fight to the finish in his eyes. I had to hiya kick him back and this went on until my oldest son rode up on his big white steed (not really) and a long stick and shooed him away. It must have been a male thing. The rooster then proceeded to walk toward his group of other, more docile homies and strut his stuff. To which one of the other more “logical” roosters charged toward him and did a hiya kick on him.
I can totally understand chicken and this is what he was saying, in a southern accent of course, “Ya big dummy. Ya know yer mess’n with the farmer’s wife, don’t ya? We’ll all be soup if ya keep that up.”
I told farmer and he asked me the strangest question, “Did you get a look at which rooster it was?”
“Oh yeah,” I responded, “I happened to get a full description between hiya kicks and running for my life. It’s not like anyone can read the number on his identifying band without their glasses and he didn’t politely introduce himself to me as chicken number 9 before attacking me. They all look alike.”
I would be ready for him the next time…all the while praying there would not be a next time. There was. And I was ready. As I was walking to the treehouse, minding my own business I might add, I heard footsteps in the grass charging toward me from behind. It was Freddy Krueger, I mean Rooster again, and it was an all-out attack. He was now communicating to the entire family that he was the top dog, or rooster, and we had no right to be in his territory. I took a picture this time between kicks and he was identified. Farmer was not happy. He sharpened his knife, grabbed Freddy Rooster, positioned him neck down and feet side up in the cone on the tree, and #@*%!, Talon boy was in a pot 20 minutes later and made into the most delicious chicken soup.
It was amazingly quiet around our house after that with the other roosters. They started bringing me flowers and serenading me below my window. I highly recommend showing the roosters in your coop who the real alpha is…the farmer’s wife.
Ingredients for the Farmer’s Revenge Chicken Broth
1 stewing hen or naughty rooster
2 bay leaves
1 bouquet garni (sprigs of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme- yeah just like the song.)
1 head garlic cut in half (not a clove…the whole head)
1″ knob fresh ginger (optional)
1″ knob fresh turmeric (optional)
1 tsp whole peppercorns
Salt to taste
Enough filtered water to cover the bird
*Because we are making a broth base and will be discarding any vegetables used afterward, I prefer to use vegetable scraps I have collected in my freezer such as carrot tops and peelings, the center stalk of the celery including leaves and trimmings, onion, leek, scallions, shallot, or garlic trimmings, parsley leaves and stems, etc. You can also add any chicken necks, backs, wings, or even feet (great for a gelatinous broth) that you may have saved. Throw it all in because it will be discarded when the broth is finished.
If you do not have any scraps on hand, then add the following broth veggies:
1 large onion with the skin (darkens the broth)
2 celery stalks roughly cut
1 parsnip roughly cut
Method and Instructions for the Broth
- Fasten together the herb sprigs for the bouquet garni with kitchen twine. Place the chicken in a large stock pot, and add the bouquet garni, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, turmeric, salt, and enough filtered water to cover your bird. Add in your scraps or broth veggies. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and skim off any foam that comes to the surface before your broth reaches a boiling point. You don’t want it to reintegrate back into the broth which will give it an off flavor or color.
- Slowly maintain a simmer for as long as needed. This can take anywhere from 2-12 hours depending on your bird. If you use a regular meat chicken this process can be done in 1-2 hours, but stewing hens are retired egg layers so their meat is tough and needs to be slow-cooked to break down the tissue. They are completely different than their roaster/ broiler counterparts. You would be in a sad state if you roasted up a stewing hen for Sunday’s supper. Believe me, I tried when we were thinning out our roosters. It was like eating a football. On a farm, hens are raised to lay eggs, and broilers are raised for their meat. When a hen no longer produces eggs, she is retired, making room for a younger producer. Sorry ladies, that is just how it works on a farm. She has lived a good, long life eating bugs and grass and soaking in the sunshine, so she has mineral-rich bones and nutritionally rich, lean muscle tissue. Stewing hens are a wonderful choice for chicken broth, inexpensive, and a great way to honor the life cycle of the farm.
- When the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, remove the entire bird from the broth and set it aside. Compost or discard the veggies and herbs. I use my gravy separator at this point to separate the fat from the broth and pour it into my quart freezer containers to be used later for soup or other dishes requiring broth. Chicken broth is a bit different than bone broth in that it is prepared using chicken meat on the bones and only simmers for a few hours. Bone broth is usually simmered for several hours using an acid medium like apple cider vinegar to extract the minerals from the bones. They can be used interchangeably, but they do taste different. Chicken broth is rich and flavorful. Bone broth is thinner and nutrient dense. After you have saved some broth for future use, you can use about 8-12 cups of broth to make your chicken soup. I like my soup brothy so I use more.
Ingredients for the Farmer’s Revenge Chicken Soup
2-3 quarts chicken broth (8-12 cups)
2 T olive oil
3 large carrots chopped
3 celery stalks chopped
1 large onion chopped
(FYI -carrot, celery, and onion chopped together is what the French call Mirepoix and grocery stores sell it already chopped together if you are ever in a pinch for time. I have never done that…liar, liar, pants on fire.)
4-6 chopped garlic cloves
1-pound potatoes chopped
2 cups chopped kale
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup frozen sweet corn
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
Method and Instruction for the Soup
- In your Dutch oven or large pot, heat 2 T olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Then add the potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, and salt and pepper. Sauté until garlic becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock to the pot, bring to a low simmer and cover, cooking veggies until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- While the soup is cooking, separate the meat from the bones and shred or dice chicken. Save the bones for bone broth (in your freezer scrap bag.) They still have some life in them.
- Add the chicken meat to the soup along with the corn, peas and kale and cook for 2 minutes longer.
- Finally, turn off the heat, add the parsley, season to taste one last time, and serve in bowls alongside buttermilk biscuits and honey butter. Chicken soup, when the broth is already prepared ahead of time, is an incredibly quick and nutritious meal that can be thrown together in a pinch for a quick weeknight meal or prepared for a sick loved one.