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Chicken Soup: A Classic Jewish Recipe


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I think I could make Jewish Chicken Soup in my sleep. My mother taught me the recipe and the rules before I could read. I’d stand on a chair and watch her clean the bird (“remember we have to take out all the stuff inside the chicken”). She showed me how to remove leftover pinfeathers, sometimes using a lighted match to burn off tiny hairs and then for a few minutes the kitchen would have an awful organic odor.

But all was forgotten as the soup simmered and the heady perfume of salty broth and sweet dill, meaty chicken and softening vegetables suffused through the house reminding us that a good dinner was on its way.

There is no magic so wonderful or remarkable as a bowl of Jewish Chicken Soup. People joke about its curative powers. But regardless of whether there are any real medicinal properties, there are few foods quite as comforting as this one, especially in the depth of winter when you need a little something to warm you up inside and out.

My Mom was adamant about the dill. She said it made all the difference to the dish, giving it an herbaceous lift that an ingredient such as mild mannered chicken can use. When a cousin married a Jewish woman from Ecuador whose Chicken Soup recipe included a green bell pepper instead of dill my mother was horrified.

She was also insistent on using a large kosher pullet, often difficult to find locally these days, and even when she was still alive, so she began to use the largest broiler-fryer she could find and sometimes a roaster. She insisted on a whole chicken (“much more flavor”) and sneered at a woman she knew who made soup with boneless chicken breasts (“you need to have the bones and skin to make a rich broth”).

I have to say her Chicken Soup was awesome, always a hit, always the first course at Passover (as well as Rosh Hashanah and more Shabbats than I can count).

Interestingly enough my mother always said she didn’t like soup, but as she got older she discovered how very comforting it could be. I’d visit and there she was, in her kitchen, bedecked in an apron, experimenting with new recipes, by now well beyond Jewish Penicillin. She could be simmering a bunch of vegetables in broth or cooking dried beans and peas with a bunch of marrow bones or adding a couple of hunks of fish to tomato chowder. Her house had a welcoming, reassuring smell that I can conjure up even today, many years later, as I try to replicate those soups in my own kitchen using the legacy of her wonderful recipes.  Now I pass them on to you to try.

Chicken Soup

Mom’s Pasta Fagiole

Fish and Tomato Chowder



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About Ronnie Fein


Ronnie Fein has been a freelance food and lifestyle writer since 1980. She has her own food blog, called Kitchen Vignettes. Ronnie is the author of Hip Kosher and operates the Ronnie Fein School of Creative Cooking in Stamford, Connecticut, where she lives with her husband. She has two married daughters and four grandchildren.




11 Responses to Chicken Soup: A Classic Jewish Recipe

  1. I enjoyed reading your vignette about your mother’s chicken soup. For me, my mother’s chicken soup was one of the first recipe’s that I wanted to make sure to learn. I like the idea of using Dill and will try it next time. My mother always makes it with Banana Squash, Leeks, and Chayotes. For me, Chicken soup is not the same without Banana Squash.

  2. avatar says: sayote

    I will definitely try this one. It looks delicious.

  3. Please I’m not computer Savy , but Thes
    Was my Favorite Soup coming up!
    Would love to have Thes Recapie !
    What do you mean by my website ?
    Is Thes not my email Add.?

  4. looking for the recipe

  5. avatar says: SenorAzul

    When cooked why do my matzoh balls expand greatly and go to the soup’s surface!

    I use 8 separated eggs.

    • Oh myohmy! I hope you aren’t complaining! Most people would pay dearly for expanded matzo balls that float to the top — they sound positively light and fluffy and perfect!! A factor of the egg whites, which I assume you beat to glossy peaks. When I am not busy I do it that way too and love the result. Of course, some people prefer a denser, smaller matzo ball but to me you’ve got a winning recipe. Enjoy.

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