The Shabbat Table: Chicken soup for the bowl

Chicken meatball soup
Chicken meatball soup

The Shabbat Table is the latest CJN column from noted chef and food blogger Norene Gilletz. Click here for last week’s recipes.

Shabbat Shalom and Good Shabbos! Chicken soup, anyone?

Jewish chicken soup is traditionally flavoured with dill and the veggies are cooked in large chunks. Some chefs add a piece of turnip, celery root, a few parsnips and/or parsley to the soup. Ultimately, it depends on how your mother made it. French chefs add thyme and bay leaf to their soups, and they dice the vegetables neatly. But who has the time or patience for that? Not me. Yes, that is very good chicken soup, but it’s not Jewish chicken soup!

I’ve trained many chefs on how to make chicken soup properly. When they would ask me the secret to making a good Jewish chicken soup, I’d reply: “You need to put the chicken in the pot, not wave it over the top!”

One of my chefs needed to make enough soup for several hundred people, so he used four cases of chicken (20 chickens per case) and made the soup in four giant commercial soup kettles! I doubt that my microwaved chicken soup recipe would have been useful for him to cook a soup using 80 chickens!

Although not much time is saved when making a batch of chicken soup in the microwave, there are many advantages. All the ingredients are added at once, skimming is not necessary, and there is almost no evaporation. The chicken and vegetables never fall apart – and boiled chicken never tasted so good! My grandmother would have been impressed!

For a great matzah ball soup recipe (Memories of Matzah Balls), click here. Would you prefer noodles, rice, kasha, kreplach or matzah balls in your soup?

This Shabbat, why not try my chicken meatball soup? It’s almost a meal in a bowl! Enjoy…


(Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible, Whitecap) 

Chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food. Everyone will love this nourishing soup, especially the kids.


3 lb/1.4 kg chicken pieces

10 cups water (approximately)

1 large or 2 medium onions

4 to 6 carrots

3 or 4 stalks celery

2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 cup fresh dill


1 small onion

1 stalk celery

1 medium carrot

1 lb/500 g minced chicken

1 egg

2 tbsp water

3 tbsp matzah meal (or gluten-free matzo meal)

Salt and pepper

1/4 tsp dried basil

1. For soup: Trim and discard excess fat from chicken. Place in a large pot and add enough water to completely cover chicken by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Use a slotted spoon to skim off the scum that rises to the surface of the soup.

2. Add onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for one hour. If desired, remove cooked chicken and vegetables (see Norene’s Notes, below). Meanwhile, prepare meatball mixture.

3. For meatballs: Process onion, celery and carrot on the steel blade of a food processor until minced, about 10 seconds. Combine with minced chicken, egg, water, matzo meal, salt, pepper and basil. Mix lightly or meatballs will become tough. Shape into small meatballs (approximately 30), wetting your hands for easier handling.

4. Drop meatballs into simmering soup. Add dill and simmer 30 minutes longer. Serve soup with fine noodles or matzah balls.

Yield: About 10 cups of soup and 30 meatballs. Keeps for 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheats and/or freezes well.

Norene’s Notes:

  • A stockpot with a pasta insert is excellent for cooking chicken soup – there’s no need to strain out the chicken, bones and vegetables after cooking. Cook soup for one hour, then lift out the pasta insert with its contents, and transfer to a large container. Add meatballs to simmering soup and cook for 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile, remove skin and bones from chicken pieces and discard. Cut chicken and vegetables into bite-sized pieces and add to soup.
  • Leftover cooked chicken? Use it in stir-fries, casseroles, salads, wraps, and chicken salad.
  • Skim the fat, but keep the flavour! If you don’t have time to refrigerate your soup overnight to remove the fat, a quick trick is to place the soup in several small containers and place them in the freezer for a short time. The fat will congeal and can then be lifted off and discarded.
  • Parsley stems add flavour to your soup, but the leaves can make your soup bitter. Cut off the leafy end of the parsley and use the stems for soup. Save the parsley leaves for another use such as tabouleh.
  • Vegetarian broth: Many chefs freeze the trimmings from vegetables to make broth (e.g., onions, leeks, carrots, celery, mushrooms, parsley stems, red bell pepper). When they have enough, they place them in a pot (no need to defrost them) and cover with cold water. Add 3 or 4 carrots, 3 cloves of garlic, some herbs, and a bay leaf. Simmer for 35 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of fresh dill (do not chop) and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of eleven cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, and cookbook editor.

Norene lives in Toronto, Canada and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website or email her at [email protected].