The Shabbat Table – Comfort me with chicken soup!

(Flickr photo - )

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! The weather has been so cold and stormy, and the driving has been treacherous and stressful. On days like that, there’s nothing better than serving up some haymishe chicken soup like Mom used to make. Thankfully, the days are getting longer and there’s a promise of spring around the corner. No matter the weather, a bowlful of homemade chicken soup is always good for what ails you.

Jewish chicken soup is traditionally flavoured with dill and the veggies are cooked in large chunks. French chefs add thyme and bay leaf to their chicken soup, and they dice the vegetables neatly. (I rarely have the time or patience.) That is very good chicken soup, but it’s not Jewish chicken soup!


Soup Secrets:

  • Chicken soup or chicken stock—what’s the difference? Stock is made from simmering bones, whereas broth is made from simmering chicken.
  • Serve chicken soup with noodles, rice, orzo, kasha, kreplach, farfel, or matzah balls. Add a piece of carrot to each bowl and garnish with fresh dill.
  • Serve boiled chicken as a main dish, or add pieces of cut-up chicken to the soup. Cooked leftover chicken can be used for chicken salad, casseroles, or sandwiches.
  • Some cooks like to add a piece of turnip, celery root, a few parsnips and/or parsley to the soup. It usually depends on what your mother added when she made her soup!



Courtesy of Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein shared: “Pola Kirshner’s chicken soup was always the most anticipated dish at her family’s holiday meals. With three children, their partners, eight grandchildren and extended family members, Pola would quadruple her recipe so that there would be enough soup for second helpings.

 The family has grown since Pola began making her soup for them. A few of the grandchildren have partners now and she is a great-grandmother of two. Pola is not well enough to make her chicken soup anymore, but she has passed the recipe on to her daughters. Now they take turns making it for holiday celebrations and the kids say it’s almost as good as Bubby’s soup.”

 Barbara’s Secret: “I follow my mother’s recipe exactly and never deviate!”


1 (3 lb) chicken, cut in quarters

4 onions, peeled and slightly salted

2 celery stalks, trimmed

3 parsnips

6 carrots

1/2 bunch of fresh dill

8–10 cups of water

4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Additional salt and pepper to taste


Clean chicken well. Pour boiling water over the chicken and let it sit 5 minutes. Discard the water. Place chicken in a large heavy stockpot. Cover with water. Water level should be about 2 inches above the chicken. Bring water to a boil and skim the scum that rises.

Turn down heat. Add onions, celery, and parsnips. Bring water to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Cover pot loosely with a lid to prevent evaporation. Add carrots, dill, salt, and pepper. Simmer another 1/2 hour. Test chicken to prevent overcooking. Season with pepper and additional salt to taste.

To serve, discard celery, onion, and dill. Remove chicken and remaining vegetables. Soup can be made a day before serving. Serve soup with farfel, noodles, and/or matzah balls.

Makes 8 servings.

This soup freezes well. The recipe can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled for large gatherings.




Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap)

These dumplings are an easy alternative to matzah balls or noodles, especially when you’re rushed for time or feeling under the weather. Kids love these!


2 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

Dash freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup matzo meal


In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process all ingredients until smooth, about 10 seconds.

Drop mixture from a teaspoon into simmering chicken soup. Cover and cook for 4–5 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. Do not freeze.





Adapted from Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (Whitecap)

Chicken soup, often referred to as “Jewish penicillin,” is the ultimate comfort food! A steaming bowl of golden broth is sure to cure colds or flu. Some cooks like to add turnip or celery root to the broth. My late Auntie Clara Tobin liked to add cauliflower florets to her soup, but my son Steven was allergic to them, so we had to let her know a few days ahead that we were coming for Shabbos so she would leave them out.


3 1/2–4 lb chicken, cut up

10 cups cold water (approx.)

4 tsp salt

2 medium onions

4–6 medium carrots

3–4 stalks celery

1 parsnip (optional)

2 cloves garlic

1 bunch fresh dill

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Trim excess fat from chicken, but don’t remove the skin as it adds flavour. Place chicken in a large soup pot. Add water, covering chicken completely by at least 1 inch. Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Use a slotted spoon to remove scum from the surface of the soup.
  2. Add onions, carrots, celery and parsnip to pot. Reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, for 1 1/4 hours. Add garlic and dill and simmer 15 minutes longer. Adjust salt to taste. Season with freshly ground pepper. Remove pot from heat and cool completely.
  3. Strain soup, reserving carrots and chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, discard hardened layer of fat from surface of soup. Remove and discard chicken skin. Cut up chicken into small pieces.
  5. Reheat soup with chicken and sliced carrots.

Makes 8 generous servings. Freezes and reheats well.




 No skimming required!


2 1/2–3 lb chicken pieces (e.g., drumsticks and thighs)

8–9 cups cold water (approx.)

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 large whole onion

4–5 medium carrots, halved

3 stalks celery, halved

1/2 bunch fresh dill


  1. Trim excess fat from chicken.
  2. Place all the ingredients into an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. (I put them into “soup socks” first, which are cheesecloth bags.) Water should cover chicken and vegetables.
  3. Press the “Soup” setting. Lock the lid and seal the vent.
  4. Cook for 45 minutes.
  5. Let pressure release naturally for 20–30 minutes, then manually release pressure.
  6. Remove chicken and vegetables from soup.
  7. Refrigerate soup overnight. You can then easily lift off and discard any hardened fat.
  8. Reheat and serve hot along with the cooked chicken, vegetables, and noodles.

Makes 8 servings. Freezes and reheats well.



 This recipe is an ideal way to use up the leftover skin and bones from chicken breasts used in recipes calling for boneless breasts.


Skin and bones from 8 whole chicken breasts (or 2 chicken carcasses)

8 cups cold water

3–4 tsp salt (to taste)

1/4 tsp pepper

4–6 carrots, scraped and trimmed

3–4 stalks celery

1 large onion

Fresh dill


  1. Combine bones, skin, and cold water in a large pot. Add salt and bring to a boil. Skim.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for about 2 hours. Strain and refrigerate.
  3. Remove the fat which congeals on top and discard.
  4. Serve with matzah balls, kreplach, noodles, or rice.

Makes 8 servings. Freezes well.