I have served this soup to TC, The Philosophical Werewolf, The Roving Commenter, 1L,* and The Dude, to much acclaim. It is the Soup of Friendship and Love. It is The Roomie's favorite soup, even after she went vegetarian, making it the soup for which people make moral compromises. It is currently my only solace in my state of feverish illness, and the tastiest placebo I know.
It's also the easiest way to make chicken soup without using a whole chicken, which I think is 1) needlessly difficult to butcher, and 2) inefficient. It uses only dark, flavorful meat, but very low fat due to the fact that I remove the skin and fat. After refrigeration, no fat surfaces to the top.
It takes a while to make, but if you make it the following multi-stage way, you'll build up the flavors of your stock layer by layer, starting with the things that take the longest to cook but impart the most flavor. The onions add a great flavor, the carrots a nice sweetness, the celery a bright flavor, and the thyme the ultimate finish. Of course, you could do all the sous cheffery the night before, toss all the vegetables in at once after the stock is built, and it'll end up tasting good anyway.
Warning: this is a recipe for 10 quarts of soup. No less, maybe even more. I have a good-sized stock pot, and this is all just fits.
10-12 (at least) chicken thighs, de-boned, skinned, trimmed of fat, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Reserve the bones.
3-4 tablespoons of salt
One large yellow onion, cut into small wedges
1 lb. yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. large carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. celery, cut into bite-sized pieces
5-6 sprigs of thyme, tied into a bundle
Optional: 1/2 lb. pasta
Put the chicken + chicken bones into the stock pot, along with the onions and salt. Fill the pot 7/8 full, giving it room to boil.
Bring to a boil on high heat, and skim off the scum as it rises and discard. After it comes to a boil, there will seem to be no end to the scummy seepage, until you turn down the heat to medium-high. Stir the pot as you skim, because this will bring the scum to the top. Check the color of the stock, which should be turning a nice pale yellow.
This takes about an hour for the water to boil and . So while you wait for things to boil, cook, and release scum, you can chop the vegetables. Otherwise, this will be cooking for about an hour and a half, before you add the first round of vegetables:
Add the carrots , and cook for a half hour. While the carrots are cooking, peel and chop the potatoes, and add those along with the thyme. They cook for another half hour. While they cook, chop up the celery, and toss that in, and cook for another half hour, until everything is tender and the thyme leaves have totally fallen apart from their bundle. Fish out the chicken bones, and serve.
In total, this soup will have been cooking for 3 hours on medium-high. If you want to add more body to the soup and make it a little more filling, add pasta in the last 15 minutes. I did for the first time yesterday, and the starchy release added a nice body to the broth and the noodles made me feel fuller longer. Of course, upon reheating the noodles became swollen and slightly mushy. This isn't that bad though, because my usual MO is to bake biscuits and tear them up into my soup and make faux dumplings.
* From 1L, a message decrying his omission from the list of Chicken Soup Lovers:
I am DISGUSTED and defeated to have been left out of your post on Chicken Soup. Not only have I had it, but I loved it. I demand, pursuant to The Rules of Belle Procedure (RBP 15(a)(2)) that you amend the post to include my pseudonym, 1L, noting that I've had it.
Duly noted, and pursuant to RBP 15(a)(2), amended in favor of petitioner 1L. It is so ordered.