October 13, 2009

From-Scratch Chicken and Rice Soup With Escarole

Over the last couple of months, I've been buying whole chickens and cutting them up myself, both for the economics of it (lower price per pound) and to freeze the necks and backs for a future chicken soup. Then I kept seeing the ziploc-bagged parts in the freezer and thinking: when am I going to get around to using these? It was summer, so I wasn't really craving hot soups.

But as September turned into October a chill arrived in the air and I came down with my usual change-of-seasons cold. And then I was very glad to have random chicken bones in the freezer. (And actually wished I had saved more of the bones from the chicken parts I had cooked.) Using homemade stock as the base for chicken soup...well, there is no comparison to the stuff in the carton or can. Truly amazing flavor, and it must have superior healing qualities as well. I'm addicted - the following weekend, I made chicken soup again, this time with a whole chicken (basically the same technique; use a whole chicken if you want lots of meat in your soup).

Cooking the rice in the stock adds body to the soup, since the rice releases starch while it cooks. Brown basmati is my favorite; it imparts a buttery, nutty taste and wonderful aroma to the soup.

Chicken and Rice Soup with Escarole
Yield: 6 to 8 quarts

Chicken backs, necks, and other assorted bones (or a whole chicken)
Splash of apple cider vinegar (2-3 Tbsp)
1 cup brown basmati rice, soaked for 6-12 hours in water with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, and drained
1-2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Bouquet garni: 10 to 15 parsley stems, 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 5-8 whole black peppercorns, and 2 bay leaves wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with twine
3 cups escarole, rinsed well and chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped raw garlic (about 1 clove per serving) for garnish, optional
Chopped parsley for garnish, optional
  • Place chicken bones or whole chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. You can add a large pinch of sea salt at this point if you like (this would be on the way to making a broth; classically stock is not seasoned). Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered or partially covered, until meat is falling off the bones (if using whole chicken about 2-1/2 hours; with bones that have meat on them, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours). If foam/scum rises to the top, skim off with a strainer or slotted spoon. 
  • Pull meat off bones, pull apart or chop into bite-size pieces and reserve for soup; return bones and cartilage to the pot.
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the pot, and continue to simmer bones for as long as you like (8-12 hours is ideal, or up to 24 hours if you can - this makes for a more mineral- and gelatin-rich stock).
  • When you are ready to make soup, strain the stock to remove bones and other bits, rinse pot, and return stock to pot. Add rice and a large pinch of salt, cover, and and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until rice is very tender.
  • Add carrot, onion, garlic, and bouquet garni to pot. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. 
  • Stir reserved chicken meat and escarole into soup. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until chicken is heated through and escarole is wilted. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
  • Garnish each serving with chopped raw garlic and parsley, if desired. Serve with thick buttered slices of hearty bread.


  1. oh this soup looks great for this time of year

  2. This looks like such a wonderful and healthy dish! And I agree, this is a great cold fighter.

    Let me know if you need any recommendations for North Fork. There's a lot to see in the area, although a couple of establishments noted that they shutdown at the end of October for the season until next year.



  3. I was just thinking this was chicken soup weather. Love your recipe. Yes, it's time and how scrumptious your soup looks!

  4. Thanks for the comments!

    Christine - thank you so much for offering North Fork recommendations. The day trip I'm going on is organized by a chef-instructor from the Natural Gourmet Institute (where I went to cooking school), so it has a set itinerary (we're going to visit a couple of vineyards/wineries, an organic farm, oyster cultivation place, and a cheesemaker). But I'm hoping to also take a trip out there on my own in the future - so any recs would be great!