I am about to share the extraordinary secret to great chicken soup.
For some reason, the proportion of poultry to liquid has shifted over the years to the watery pots our ancestors made out of necessity. They would certainly have added more meat to the pot if they had it. Chicken soup, the traditional standby of the Jewish celebration menu (and the bowl that can cure all ills year round), can be made with a whole chicken or lots of bones. Restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten once told me that in many of his kitchens, broth is made with chicken wings because the knobby little bones produce the most intense liquid (they do). But start with chicken wings and you won’t get silky pieces of chicken to serve in the bowls or turn into a beautiful creamy salad the following day.
To make a full-flavored broth, use 3 quarts water for a 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, along with onions, carrots, and celery. Dice the onions and celery so they’re easy to serve later, but leave the carrots in long, slender pieces so they look pretty in the bowl. Simmer the soup for 1 hour. You don’t get more flavor if you cook it longer, but you do get overcooked meat.
Prepare the pot a day in advance, so you can chill the liquid and discard the fat. Leftover chicken, mixed with celery and mayonnaise, becomes the filling for tiny sandwiches. Use small, tender buns, spread them with avocado cream, tuck in lettuce, and you’ve transformed an ancient bowl into very modern sandwiches.