Maimonides Chicken Soup


Chicken Soup is one dish that has reached mythical status in Jewish culture. Known as the “Jewish Penicillin,” chicken soup is offered to nurse colds, eliminate headaches, and even comfort broken hearts. There is almost nothing chicken soup is not purported to cure. This idea dates back to at least the 12th century when Maimonides, a famous Jewish theologian and physician, prescribed chicken soup to “neutralize body constitution.” Maimonides believed the golden broth would cure disease as serious as leprosy or chronic as asthma.

4-5 pound whole chicken
1 pound chicken wings
2 large white onions, peeled and quartered
1 large purple onion, peeled and quartered
2 parsnips, quartered
3 celery stalks including leaves, halved
5 carrots, halved
3 garlic cloves
6 parsley sprigs
¾ tsp dried thyme
4 quarts water
salt and pepper to taste

Optional add-ins: matzo balls, rice, egg noodles, fresh dill and/or vermicelli

1) Trim visible fat and extra skin from the whole chicken. Empty the cavity of the chicken and discard giblets. Wash the chicken and wings thoroughly.
2) Place chicken and wings in large stockpot. Pour in 4 quarts of water. Turn the heat to medium and bring soup to a simmer. Never let the soup boil.
3) Add to the stockpot the onions, parsnips, celery, carrots, garlic, parsley, thyme, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.
4) Bring the soup back to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and let the soup simmer partially covered for two and half hours. Frequently skim the foam and scum from the top.
5) Remove the chicken and carrots from the pot and transfer to cutting board. Remove bones and shred chicken, setting the meat aside. Chop carrots and set aside. Add the bones back to the stockpot and simmer soup another 1 ½ hours, partially covered.
6) Remove pot from heat, uncover, and let soup cool slightly. Strain the soup through a colander or mesh sieve into a large bowl. Press down on the vegetables to get out all juices. Discard everything in the colander.
7) Return as much of the shredded chicken and carrots to the soup as you like.
8) The soup should have a very rich flavor as a broth so it is great by itself. However, you can add anything else you like to this broth base: matzo balls, rice, egg noodles, vermicelli, and/or fresh dill. In Israel, “soup nuts” are also popular add-ins.

*Recipe by Shelley Neese, the vice president of The Jerusalem Connection. Click here for her articles and videos.

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