January is designated as National Soup Month, and appropriately so. After all, what is more soothing than a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day? At Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, residents and staff alike look forward to the mouth-watering soups prepared daily by Michael Millard and his staff. Michael, who is the beloved Food Service Director at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, believes soup is the perfect menu item. “Soups are the original one-dish meal, incredibly satisfying and extremely flavorful,” commented Millard. “Everyone just loves a bowl of soup.”
By far the hands-down favorite soup among residents is Michael’s delicious Chicken Matzo Ball Soup. There are many variations, with recipes often handed down in families one from one generation to the next. For Michael, the secret to the ultimate chicken soup is making the broth from scratch. “We never use canned both; we always make the base of the soup by simmering quartered bone-in chickens and then straining the liquid, “explains Millard. “It makes all the difference in the world as far as the taste.” Millard occasionally varies the soup by adding noodles, rice or kreplach instead of the matzo balls, however the matzo ball version continues to be the most popular.
Showcasing approximately 15 different soups, the CJL soup menu offers a variety of tastes and textures. Michael’s personal favorite: lentil soup. “It’s super nutritious, substantial and extremely versatile. I make a thick hearty stew or a light vegetable broth, depending upon what’s fresh and what’s in season,” said Millard.” Other soups in the rotation include Split Pea, Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Spinach, Navy Bean, Cream of Broccoli, French Onion, Cream of Carrot, Carrot Potato Chowder, Tomato Rice, and Vegetable and Mushroom Barley.
When asked about his least popular soup, Michael was quick to respond. “A few years ago I made a carrot ginger soup that was definitely not a big hit with the residents,” he recalled with a laugh. “But it’s fun to experiment with new recipes and surprise the residents,” he added. “They are very receptive to new recipes.”
With National Soup Month now underway, it seems clear that the appeal of soup is universal. And fortunately for us, homemade soup will remain a year-round staple at CJL. The best news of all: soup is featured on the dinner menu seven days a week. How comforting.
Chelsea Jewish Lifecare Matzo Ball Chicken Soup
- 2 kosher 3 1/2lb roasting chickens, cut in quarters
- 12-14 cups water
- 4 stalks celery with leaves
- 2 large onions, halved
- 6 medium carrots, peeled and ends chopped off
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup chopped dill, plus a few sprigs for garnish
- Matzo balls, noodles, kreplach or rice
- Put the chicken in a very large pot and pour in about 12–14 cups water, making sure the chicken is covered. With the pot uncovered, bring to a boil, using a slotted spoon to skim and discard the foam that accumulates. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the celery, onions, carrots, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper. Cook, partially covered, for 2-3 hours. Skim occasionally as foam appears.
- Remove the chicken, veggies and herbs from the pot and set aside. Strain the soup through a sieve or colander, returning the clear broth to a clean pot. Shred the chicken and add to broth. Discard the onions and parsley. Roughly chop the carrots and celery and add them back into the soup. Heat until hot but not boiling.
- To serve, spoon the soup into bowls. Add one matzah ball (or noodles, rice or kreplach) and garnish with dill or parsley.