Recently my sister asked me if I ever think about our mother. I was more than slightly surprised by the question, but Anita explained that I don’t often bring her up in our conversations. She’s right, I don’t speak of her very much, but still she is never far from my thoughts, especially around the holidays. My mom did not have her own “signature scent,” and although she owned one bottle of perfume, Joy, that she purchased before she left Paris in 1952, I don’t ever remember her using it. She wasn’t one of those women who you associate with the scent of tuberose or jasmine. Women who I pass on the street of a certain age don’t ever remind me of my mother because she didn’t share their love of hats, statement pieces of jewelry, or the latest fashion. Mostly, I think about my Mom when I am in the kitchen, when the house is filled with the scent of cinnamon-laced cookies baking in the oven, of onions frying on the stove-top, of chickens, smothered in garlic, roasting in the oven, or when a pot of chicken soup is simmering for hours at a time releasing that specific smell that announces its’ unmistakable presence. Those were her signature smells, and every day she wore a different scent.
Was my mother’s chicken soup unique? Maybe not, but we loved it. For us, chicken soup was everything my mother had to offer, concentrated in a bowl. A dish that was simultaneously nurturing, warm, inviting, and filling. So Anita, yes, I think about Mom, and right now, while a pot of chicken soup is simmering on the stove, the house smells like her too.
This morning my daughter mentioned that my chicken soup recipe was not on the blog. There are hundreds of chicken soup recipes but she wanted mine and so here it is. It is based on my mother’s, but has changed over the years. This one is large enough to serve a crowd for Rosh Hashana. In our home we serve kreplach on Rosh Hashana and Matzoh Balls on Passover.
12 pieces of chicken, all thighs or a combination of thighs and breasts
2 cloves garlic, left whole
2 large brown onions, washed but not peeled, and left whole
1 large turnip
4 small parsnips
6 stalks celery, leaves left on, cut in half
2 medium zucchini left whole
2 Roma tomatoes, left whole
2 leeks, white and pale green part only, washed thoroughly, and cut in half lengthwise
2 large carrots, cut in large chunks
1 large bunch Italian parsley
1 Tb kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
20 cups of water or enough to cover
Osem chicken bouillon if needed, about 1 Tb.
Place everything in very large soup pot (this recipes is 5 quarts of water without veggies) or divide into two pots. Bring to a boil, remove scum from the top, reduce to the point where bubbles are breaking the surface, but nothing brisker than that. Allow to simmer for about 3 hours. Drain vegetables and chicken and serve golden broth with kreplach or matzoh balls. Serves 15-20. NOTE: Some chickens are less flavorful than others and so sometimes I need to add some chicken bouillon at the end but use sparingly because it clouds the broth.