Something done without much effort is said to be as easy as pie. Though pies are not difficult, they do require a bit of practice. I think a better expression would be as easy as soup.
Soup is a very forgiving type of dish. You can put almost anything in it, and it will be delicious — and be even tastier the next day. When you make it from scratch, you won't have to worry about the sodium content or allergens because you control the ingredients.
Although technically it may be spring, a pot of chicken soup on the stove is a welcome warm-up on chilly evenings. What follows is a guide rather than a recipe. You can adapt it to taste.
Start with a chicken. Any kind will do, but buy a whole chicken rather than parts. The flavor of the soup comes from the bones as well as the meat. If you are a backyard chicken farmer, you can dispatch a non-laying hen to the soup pot. If "dressing a bird" is not your thing, consider heading over to King's stand at the New Eastern Market for one of their free-range chickens.
Wash the chicken with warm water and check the inside to remove any parts such as the neck and gizzards. Throw everything into a large pot, 6-8 quarts, and cover with cold water.
More flavor: Add a couple of bay leaves, a whole peeled onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. These will give the broth a more complex flavor. Don't worry if your family "hates" any of these, as the additions will be removed before the soup is done.
Cover the pot and slowly bring it to a boil. Reduce the flame and simmer for about 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the vegetables for the soup. I like carrots and celery because their non-assertive flavors don't overwhelm the soup. Peel three carrots and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Do the same with the celery. The size isn't really important, but if your family is used to canned soups, large chunks of vegetables might put them off.
When the chicken is done, use a large fork to remove it from the pot. Set it on a plate to cool.
Using a large slotted spoon, remove the onion, garlic, bay leaf and anything else you don't want in the soup. Add the vegetables and bring the soup back to a simmer.
When the chicken is cool, pick off the meat and cut it into bite-size pieces. Add it to the soup pot and let everything simmer for about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. I usually start out with a tablespoon of salt and go from there. For a traditional chicken noodle soup, add a heaping cup of cut spaghetti and cook for 8 more minutes.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.