This is a little bit of a production number and results in a straightforward, chunky soup that you can take in any direction you like, or leave as is. Check out the bottom of the page for a laundry list of things you could add/change to make this your soup. Stir a little dollop of pesto into the soup if you have some on hand. Good bread and grated Parmesan are nice too.
What’s with all this bringing to a boil then lowering the heat? There are a couple of reasons this might have become a standard recipe phrase but I’m going with this one: It is easier to get to a true simmer—a few little bubbles at a time coming to the surface—if you back up from a boil than if you heat up cold liquid. As most recipes that call for boil-then-simmer include some kind of timing after lowering to a simmer, your timing will be more accurate if you arrive at a true simmer sooner.
Makes about 10 cups, enough for 4 generous servings
4 chicken legs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, cut into large dice
2 large carrots, cut into large dice
1 large celery rib, cut into large dice
One 10-ounce package cremini mushrooms, sliced thick
2 parsnips, cut into medium dice
1 bunch chard, stalks removed, leaved shredded, washed and spun dry
1 zucchini and/or yellow squash
1 cup frozen peas
Put the chicken legs in a good-size soup pot (4 to 5 quarts). Pour in enough cold water to cover them by an inch. Bring the water to a boil, let it boil for a minute, then reduce the heat so the water is simmering. Within a few minutes foam and fat will start to collect on the surface. Use a big kitchen spoon to skim off as much of that as you can. Cook the chicken until you can easily poke a fork through it, about 45 minutes. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift the legs out onto a plate. Cool to room temp (30 to 45 minutes). Turn off the heat under the pot while the chicken is cooling.
Pull the meat from the bones, return the skin and bones to the broth and cook 1 hour. Pick over the chicken and get rid of any fat, tendons, etc. Chop the chicken coarsely and refrigerate it.
Strain the broth (there should be somewhere around 6 cups), get rid of the bones and clean the pot.
Heat the olive oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until everything is softened, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, turn down the heat. Add the mushrooms and stir until they start to give off liquid, about 5 minutes.
Pour the broth into the pot and add the parsnips. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower the heat to simmering. Cook 5 minutes. Stir in the chard and chopped chicken. Cook 5 minutes. Add the squash and peas. If there is not enough broth the cover the vegetables by 1 inch, pour in as much water as needed. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmering and cook until everything is tender. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Serve with: Crusty bread, any kind of pesto, grated Parmesan, good olive oil
Add-ins: (For any of these starchy add-ins, cook them on the side and stir them into just the amount of soup you serve. Leave any soup you set aside for another day or for freezing plain.) White rice, brown rice; wide, narrow or fine egg noodles; fideos (thin, Spanish egg noodles); regular or whole wheat couscous; bulgur
Vegetable Subs: I love the sweetness parsnips give this soup, but you can leave them out if you like. Steer clear of strong-flavored vegetables, like turnips, daikon or bell peppers. If you include brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale etc.) use them sparingly but feel free to sub all kale for chard—I don’t know why that one works, but it does. Another exception: using up a chunk of Savoy cabbage that’s left in the veg drawer. Somehow that doesn’t count as brassica.