Grandma’s Chicken Broth

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My grandma taught me how to make chicken broth when I was in college. I realized at some point that this recipe is a metaphor for life. Here’s what it taught me.

Less is more

There are only four ingredients in grandma’s chicken broth: chicken, celery, parsley, and bay leaf. Like a good chicken broth, a life uncluttered with unnecessary ingredients is the most savory. Note to self: Simplicity is its own reward.

Choose the highest quality ingredients

Organic chicken, locally farmed celery, and parsley from her own herb garden were her preference. Like a great soup, conversations, friendships, and life can’t transcend the quality of their component parts. Note to self: Make wise choices about ingredients.

Skim the scum.

The one tricky step in making the world’s greatest chicken broth is to skim the scum off the top once it boils. If you neglect this part of the process, the soup ends up greasy and grayed. Same thing in life. Note to self: It’s okay to remove the things that don’t make the whole dish better.

Trust yourself.

Grandma never measured anything. Her measuring cups were just for a sense of scale, and it was taste, sight, smell, and feel that told her when the dish was perfect. Note to self: Try at least some of the time to let senses and intuition to guide you.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

A corollary to trusting yourself: if it’s a tablespoon or two and a half teaspoons, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the soup is satisfying. Note to self: Stop micromanaging life and just enjoy the dishes it serves up.

The complete recipe for Grandma’s Chicken Broth:

  1. Add a whole organic, free range chicken, four stalks of organic celery, and a giant handful of fresh parsley to your largest stock pot and fill it up with water. Put it uncovered on the burner on high.
  2. Once it boils, reduce heat to medium and skim the scum that forms on the top with a slotted spoon. Repeat this 2-3 times till it’s scum free.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for an hour or two.
  4. When the broth tastes aromatic, take it off the heat and let it cool.
  5. Remove all the solid ingredients, return it to medium heat and add salt to taste.
  6. Fill it with your favorite other ingredients and enjoy! Some ideas:
  • The chicken, diced or shredded, with carrots, onion, and some fresh celery.
  • Tiny noodles and tiny handmade meatballs. Top with grated parmesan and pecorino cheese.
  • Rice noodles, bean sprouts, and the chicken. Top with sriracha, lime, and cilantro.