I’m an indifferent cook but, as I’ve blogged once before, I make a very, very good chicken soup. Good as it is, I didn’t use to make it very often because of the incredible mess. After it had simmered for several hours, the chicken had fallen completely apart, with edible meat floating higgledy-piggledy with the inedible parts; mushy edible vegetables (carrots and celery) combined randomly with the ones no one will or can eat (parsnip, turnip and ginger root); and a broth filled with little bits of dill and parsley. All this mess meant running the broth through sieves (dirtying at least two additional pots, not to mention the splatter mess) and sorting carefully through greasy, boiling hot vegetable and meat pieces.
A few weeks ago, though, I had an epiphany that has completely revolutionized chicken soup in my family. The secret, in a word, is cheesecloth. I make separate cheesecloth packets for the chicken; for the vegetables we’ll eat after along with the soup; and for the vegetables, roots and herbs that I’ll toss later. I add these packets to the pot, along with water, salt, pepper, and whatever other seasonings I want. After I bring the water to a boil, I let the soup simmer for three hours. Then, I remove the cheesecloth pouches, put them in bowls and let them drain. The resulting broth is perfectly clear without any need for sieving, and I can easily get my hands on edible meat and vegetables to the broth. Clean-up takes minutes, not hours.