Once the calendar flips to September, my mind begins drifting to fall. It matters little what the thermometer reads, the post-Labor Day season is a time for apples, hearty greens, and, of course, chicken soup. For me, the magical elixir cures not only cold symptoms, but back-to-school (or work) jitters as well. In The Mile End Cookbook, Noah and Rae Bernamoff present a simple yet full-bodied and rich take on the classic.
The basic soup takes whole chickens and marries them with carrots, parsnips, celery, and onion over a long gentle simmer. After the base is cooked, they present myriad options for accompaniments, the most simple being Soup Mandel. Mandel are similar to oyster crackers, but souped up with schmaltz and lots of black pepper.
Why I picked this recipe: As a non-New Yorker, this is actually the only dish I've ever eaten from Mile End and I was eager to re-create it in my kitchen.
What worked: Because the broth is made from whole birds, the final soup rich is rich, silky, and jam-packed with chicken flavor. Saving the chicken meat for the soup is a great time-saver as well (and it means you won't feel like you've wasted all that meat).
What didn't: I'm not a huge fan of vegetable batons in soup as they're awkward to eat. Also, the soup mandel dough doesn't firm up too much overnight in the fridge; a few hours of chilling should work just fine.
Suggested tweaks: I couldn't find 2 1/2 pound chickens in my grocery store (the recipe calls for three of them), so I used two birds that were around 3 1/2 pounds each. This worked just fine. The Bernamoffs suggest including egg noodles, matzo balls, and/or kreplach (dumplings made with livers, skin, and fat) in the soup as well. If you've got extra time on your hands, they all seem worthy of inclusion.
Reprinted with permission from The Mile End Cookbook by Noah and Rae Bernamoff. Copyright 2012. Published by Clarkston Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- Yield:serves 6 to 8
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:4 hours
- 3 small chickens (about 2 1/2 pounds each), each cut into 8 pieces
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 4 medium parsnips, peeled, 2 left whole and 2 cut into 2- to 3-inch batons
- 4 medium carrots, peeled, 2 left whole and 2 cut into 2- to 3-inch batons
- 4 stalks of celery, trimmed, 2 left whole and 2 cut into 2- to 3-inch batons
- 3 large onions, peeled, 2 cut in half and 1 coarsely chopped
- 3 sprigs of dill
- 3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- Soup Mandel, for garnish
Place the chicken pieces in a large stockpot along with the peppercorns, salt, and enough water to cover the ingredients by about 2 inches. Heat the pot over medium heat until the content of the pot start to simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours, occasionally skimming off any foam and fat that rise to the top.
Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the bread and thigh sections and reserve them for the soup (or another use, like chicken salad), leaving the drumsticks and wings in the pot. Add the 2 whole parsnips, 2 whole carrots, 2 whole celery stalks, and 2 halved onions to the pot and continue to simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, stirring and skimming occasionally.
Remove the pot from the heat and add the dill, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Allow the herbs to steep for 30 minutes. Then strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids.
Return the strained soup to the pot and bring it to a low simmer. Add the parsnip, carrot, and celery batons; and chopped onions. Simmer for another 15 minutes, then add the reserved breast and thigh meat, if you like. Simmer for 5 minutes more and season to taste. Serve with soup mandel.