Chicken soup is de rigeur at Passover. And with Passover looming, I called Papa. His chicken soup is a lot like my chicken soup, only better.
He was happy to spill. “It’s very simple,” he enthused. “It’s the Jewish way from Eastern Europe with all the vegetables. Should I tell you what kind of vegetables I use? Turnips.”
I listened and scribbled.
“Parsnip. Petrozilia. You could find it in the Korean grocery or Italian markets. It looks like a parsnip, but with green on it.”
Never heard of it.
“The other one is leek. Wash it out good. And also curly parsley. And carrots, of course. A couple cloves of garlic. Salt. And a lot of peppercorns.
“When you put in all the vegetables and the chicken and start boiling a lot of foam comes to the top. You clear all that foam off. Finally it’s clear that’s gonna be the soup.
“Listen, as you’re cooking, give me a call and we’ll talk. And if you’re going to make matzo balls, you buy the Stretiz matzo ball mix. You just follow exactly what’s written on the box. It comes out perfect. You can’t go wrong. And it’s delicious.”
And it was. But not as delicious as the original.
Papa’s Chicken soup
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Optional chilling time: overnight
Serves: At least 8
One (3 1/2 – 4 pound) whole chicken
4 large carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks
3 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into large chunks
2 parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks
2 turnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks
1 petrozilia (parsley root), peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks (optional)
2 whole cloves garlic
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 leek, split and washed
½ bunch (about 2 cups) curly parsley (leaves and stems)
3 carrots, cut into 2-inch long, ¼-inch thick sticks
Matzo ball mix, batter prepared as directed on the box
8 teaspoons snipped fresh dill
1. Rinse: Plunge the chicken into a big pot of cold salted water. Let soak, 10 seconds. Drain water and repeat until water is clear and chicken is clean.
2. Skim: Settle chicken in a large soup pot. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons salt. Pour in 5 quarts cold water. Water should cover chicken by about 2 inches (if it doesn’t, add more). Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer. Skim foam off the surface, several times. Continue simmering and skimming until foam has disappeared, about 15 minutes.
3. Simmer: Add carrots, celery, parsnips, turnips, petrozilia, garlic and peppercorns. Partially cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Use two forks to pull out breast meat; set aside. Add leek and parsley to the soup pot, cook another 30 minutes.
4. Strain: Strain soup into a clean pot. Discard meat and vegetables. If you’re working ahead, let cool, cover and chill overnight. Before reheating, lift off any fat. If you’re on deadline, plunge ahead.
5. Finish: Half an hour before you’re ready to serve, get out a large pot. If you’ve got one with a basket insert, all the better. Scoop in 2 cups of the finished broth. Add 4 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt. Heat to a boil. With wet hands, roll about 24 matzo balls, each slightly smaller than a pingpong ball, and drop them in. Add carrot sticks. Cover, lower heat, and let simmer 25 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat broth.
6. Serve: Shred reserved chicken and divide into 8 soup bowls. Dust each portion with 1 teaspoon dill. Add 2 matzo balls and several carrot sticks to each bowl. Scoop about 1 cup hot broth into each bowl. Enjoy. Don’t worry, there’s enough for seconds.