Each week, I make a pot of chicken soup. This recipe is deeply embedded in our life at this point. My wife loves it and that makes me happy, of course. With each batch we objectively evaluate the result and I have run through a variety of experimental methods to land on this most delicious version.
The changes have been both slight and dramatic. I have been on a quest to make it richer and even more savory. Generally, you will find the same ingredients as any other chicken soup, but with a few additions and a little extra work upfront, you will find an unforgettable bowl. This one is even more nourishing on a cold Chicago evening with its’ meaty and rich stock accented by a full suite of herbs.
3 Tablespoons – Salted butter
3 – Large organic onions, roughly chopped
1 – Whole bunch of celery, roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons – Herbes de Provance
3 Tablespoons – Homestyle Herbs (The Spice House)
6 – Bay leaves
1 pound – Organic carrots
4 – Chicken backs, rinsed and guts cleaned out (1 pack from Whole Foods)
6 – Chicken thighs, skin-on and with bones
Chop the celery and onion into about 1/2 chunks. Peel carrots, dice and set aside. Clean the chicken backs in the sink by running a gentle stream of cool water over the inner side and prodding the guts to remove. It’s a little messy, but worth it!
Set the pressure cooker pot over medium heat and add butter. Once the butter is melted and starts to sizzle slightly, add the celery and onions. The pan might seem pretty full already depending on the size of the veggies. Crank up the heat a little to medium-high so you don’t stew the vegetables and stir regularly for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Once the onions start to become translucent, add the Herbes de Provance, Homestyle Herbs, and bay leaves, and stir to combine.
Optional: Split the mixture in half and add to a second pot over medium heat. This increases the surface area of the heat and helps to generate a bit of caramelization. This step may seem like just another pan to wash, but I think it makes for a special result.
Once a slight brownness has developed on the bottom of the pan and the celery and onions are softened, add a splash of water to deglaze. I like to use a rigid flat-ended spoon or spatula to scrap the pan. Recombine into the pressure cooker pot and add 2.75L of water. The soup will start to look rich and the color will be a pale opaque light brown. The pot should be no more than about 2/3 full for proper pressure cooking.
Add the carrots and chicken backs to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. If you have the time, allow this to simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
Prepare the pressure cooker lid by rubbing the seal with olive oil. Add the chicken thighs, attach the lid and turn heat up to high. The pot will take about 10 minutes to reach pressure. Once up to pressure, set a timer for 13 minutes. Immediately after the timer ends, remove from heat to the sink for a “quick release” of the pressure. For the Fagor pot, turn the dial to release the pressure and run cold water over the lid. There will be a lot of steam and you can really start to smell the magic now. After a minute or so, the steam will subside and the safety button will fall. Place pot on the counter (with a hot pad of course…) and remove the lid. Whooooaaa, soup :)
Set 2 plates on the counter next to the pot and use a tongs to remove the thighs and backs from the soup. Put the backs on one plate and the thighs on the other. Toss out the backs.
Using a soup ladle, transfer enough soup for tonight to a saucepan. For the two of us, it is usually about 4 cups of soup. If you would like to cut the oil, first use a fat separator to remove the oil layer. The oil of the soup is delicious, so you may want to include some to make it a hearty meal.
Set the saucepan of finished soup over medium heat and return to a simmer. Crack 4 eggs into a small bowl and stir to break the yolks. Hold your soup ladle in the pan, slightly submerged in the soup and slowly pour the eggs into the ladle. As the ladle fills, dump the eggs into the soup and repeat. Gently still the soup with the ladle to make sure the eggs do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes until the eggs are set to your liking. Add a chicken thigh to each bowl and ladle soup over top.