Chicken Soup, but Make It Sassy

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Chicken soup is a warm, comforting, cure-all, home-cooking classic.

It is also maybe a little boring.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a clear golden broth flecked with bits of chicken and thin carrot coins. It is delicious, of course, and sometimes — especially if you’re not feeling your best — boring is good, and what you need.

That said, don’t you wish that sometimes your chicken soup were a little heartier, a little sassier — well, a little less boring?

Maybe that means a version that is slightly more stew than soup, thanks to the thickening power of tiny, sliced potatoes. Perhaps the sweetness is toned down, because you’ve used fennel instead of carrots, and you’re using it all of the ways — bulbs, stem, seeds — which add earthiness.

Maybe the broth is a bit herbier because it’s loaded with plenty of fresh dill, and maybe it’s a bit brighter since you’ve added a whole chopped lemon — peel, flesh and all. If you want to get crazy, you could add a dollop of something creamy, like sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt, to make the mixture even richer, almost like the filling of a chicken potpie.

At this point, you’re on your way to a very sassy soup — but you could take it one step further with a fried dill and fennel seed situation I use to top each bowl. Do not skip it. While the soup finishes cooking, toast some fennel seeds and chopped dill in a bit of hot olive oil, cooking until they’re wildly fragrant and almost crisp. Spoon this quick condiment over your bowl, and you will be not be sorry, even as you wash that extra pan. It’s a small step, but one that is truly worth your while.

I should also mention that since you’re using bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, instead of a whole bird, the soup comes together in about an hour. Yes, that means you’ll be picking meat from the bones, but the skin and extra bits go such a long way toward building a delicious broth.

My favorite parts for this — and really, for everything — are chicken thighs, but full legs or just drumsticks also work. If you’re more of a braise person, or simply do not want to pick the meat from the bones, you could leave the chicken pieces intact, and eat the dish with a knife and fork. It’s a bit more formal that way, which might be nice if you’re having people over. (If you’re going that route, serve the chicken parts in shallow bowls, ladling some of the broth and vegetables over the top.)

This recipe is not meant to take the place of your beloved classic chicken soup. And it’s not a needless upgrade using fancy ingredients or special equipment (although I bet it would work well in an Instant Pot). Think of it more as an evolution of the dish, one that you might make as an alternative — or when you’re wanting a little excitement in your life.

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