What could be better than a cup of hot chicken soup? A cup of hot chicken soup that you made yourself, with almost no salt and tons of flavor. The basis of any good chicken soup (and many non-chicken soups) is Chicken Stock. You can buy it in the cans, which is expensive, chock-full of sodium, and heavy to carry home from the grocery store. You can buy it dehydrated in little packets, but even the low-sodium varieties are pretty salty and the flavor is thin. Or, you can make your own.
It is quick, it is easy, and you'll be glad you did it. This recipe is pretty flexible - no need to measure and you can adjust the ingredients as you desire.
In a large pot, put a little oil and several pieces of inexpensive, bone-in chicken (use whatever is on sale) or your leftover chicken carcass. Cook at medium-high heat for several minutes to brown the chicken. Add several cups of onion, celery and carrot parts* and cover with water. Season with salt, pepper and thyme.** Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for one hour. If you have used whole chicken parts, remove them from the water, cool slightly, and remove the meat from the bone. Set chicken meat aside for another use and return the bones to the pot. Continue simmering at least one more hour, until the stock is flavorful. Strain through a colander or sieve (line with cheesecloth if you want to get all the little bits of chicken and seasoning out) and chill the broth.*** When cool, remove the fat from the top of the broth. Freeze in ice cube trays or muffin trays, transferring to a zip-top plastic bag when frozen.
* You can use the skins, leaves and other non-edible bits for this. (I keep a bag in my freezer to store onions skins, carrot peelings and celery leaves for stock.) Some people also like to add parsley or turnips.
** Other popular seasonings include bay leaves, garlic, cloves, and whole peppercorns.
*** If you like your stock to be very clear, try this technique: Separate the egg white from the egg yolk, discard the yolk, and reserve the shell. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup cold water, egg white, and crushed eggshell. Add to strained stock, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Strain again through a cheesecloth-lined colander or sieve.