When I first saw the story behind Ujhazi's chicken soup, I knew I had to make it and write about it! I have anxiously awaited reaching “U” in my alphabetic list of Foods Named After Famous People!
My dad’s baby brother was a bachelor. In all honesty, we would call him a bachelor who liked women, drink and partying! He worked but enjoyed the times he wasn’t working … the most! He was also always taken care of by my dad and my dad’s baby sister, who we lovingly called “Sissy”. Uncle Peck (aka Wilburn) lived with Sissy’s family much of the time and when they all started aging and he no longer worked, she had a house trailer moved to her property so he could be independent, but so she could make sure he was fed and taken care of. He was a favorite of me and my siblings, even though his lifestyle was just the opposite of our family’s lifestyle. There were times that my dad … the Southern Baptist Deacon … had to go find him and retrieve him from one of those weekend parties!
What does any of that have to do with chicken soup? The story really begins right after World War II. Daddy and Uncle Peck had returned home. Daddy was busy building a house for his little family. Uncle Peck was busy being a “party animal” in the post WWII days! Uncle Peck was living with his father in a little house just a block from where I grew up. Uncle Peck had a prized fighting rooster.
On a day when Mother and Sissy decided they should make chicken and dumplings for the family, the old rooster had been especially annoying. Mother always said you couldn’t walk through the chicken pen to feed them without dodging attack of the old rooster. The two pious women probably felt that Uncle Peck shouldn’t be gambling with that rooster … so the rooster ended up in a pot of hot water, simmering away for a rich broth that made really good dumplings!
Can you imagine Uncle Peck’s temper tantrum when he discovered what they had done? Daddy told the story saying that Peck looked like an old rooster flapping his arms, strutting and yelling. I have never known if Uncle Peck ate any of the dumplings.
The original recipe for Ujhazy Chicken Soup calls for a rooster … not a hen. In order to have edible tender meat, that rooster would have cooked for a very long time! The broth would have been rich and flavorful!
I’m going to share the supposed original recipe with you today, but I’m going to share some short cuts to a wonderful chicken noodle soup. Phoebe and I made it on May 29, when temperatures are usually in the 80s. Not on this day! Temperatures were in the 50s and soup was in order. (Truth is, we love soup twelve months a year!)
There is a wonderful 2015 article online from www.food&wine.hu that describes the importance of this soup. I happily cite it as my source for the following:
“Brueje” comes from the Middle High German language that disappeared by the end of the 15th century. The word meant “hot liquid”. The next word that came in line was “Bruhe” and it had a little different meaning. “Soul-warming” giving health and strength … became attached to the new word. Soup and broth were also directly associated with the launching of restaurants in the mid-1700s. One of the first restaurants to send the message “all those whose stomachs are suffering and who need repair … come to me” was Mr. Boulanger’s restaurant in Paris … build in 1765. Soups and broths have continued through centuries to be an important part of every good restaurant’s menu! The notion that soups make us feel better and are healthy eating is not just a notion. Cooking meats and vegetables in water to make the broth … takes the nutrients from those ingredients and puts them in the broth … all of which is easier to digest because of the cooking. It is safe to say that the broth may be more nutritious than the meat cooked to make it!
Ede Ujhazi was born in 1841 and died in 1915. While his food desires date to earlier times when goulash and lots of paprika made Hungarian food what it is … his acting talents and skills were modern for the times. According to writings from the times, this actor was excellent because he was intelligent. He was a student of history. He understood what was emerging before him. All combined, it made him one of Hungary’s greatest.
Sometime around 1890, this still famous chicken soup was first created at Ferenc Wampetics’ famous restaurant located in the City Park in Budapest. The soup made the restaurant so popular, it expanded! The tradition of eating this soup at restaurants all over the region has also expanded and survived the times! Make it … you’ll love it!
The original recipe for this soup has been changed many times, I’m sure! The following is probably very close. It is also a time consuming process, but nothing would be better than enjoying this simmering away on a cold day … or on any day when comfort food is required!
Begin with a 3- pound chicken and cut in into 8 pieces. Put it in a big pot of water to begin cooking. You’ll need 2 to 3 quarts of water. If the chicken is old … or by chance a rooster … bring it to a boil and simmer it for 45 minutes before you add any vegetables. If the chicken is a young hen, add the vegetables at the beginning.
2 big carrots, cut in half
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1/2 pound brussels sprouts
2 parsnips, cut in half
1 stalk of celery
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of salt
10 whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
Cook all of this for 1 hour. Strain the soup, reserving the broth … and holding the meat and vegetables.
Put the broth back in the pot and add 1 cup of vermicelli noodles or egg noodles that you like best. Add 2 cups sliced mushrooms and let this simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.
As the soup simmers, remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut it into bite size pieces. Work with all the vegetables, cutting them into bite size pieces. Add all this back to the soup pot and simmer for 20 more minutes.
When the mushrooms and noodles are done, add lots of chopped fresh parsley and serve.
Sound delicious? Sound like a 3-hour project? It is well worth the investment of time and effort, but here’s a quick version!
Rotisserie Chicken and Noodle SoupAfter you’ve enjoyed a meal from a supermarket rotisserie chicken, save the carcass for soup the next day. You can also pop it into the freezer for soup a couple weeks later!
Begin the soup by sauteing some vegetables in olive oi. I love garlic infused olive oil for this soup. I sauteed 2 spring onions, 2 carrots and half a green pepper … chopped into soup-size pieces! If you enjoy greens in your soup, add chopped greens at this point, too. I added a giant leaf of rainbow chard including the colorful red stalk.
While the vegetables are softening, pull all the meat off the chicken carcass and set it aside. Add 2 quarts of water to the soup pot and drop the carcass in. I use any fat or skin that might still be attached to the carcass, too. Let this simmer for 30 minutes. The vegetables should be done by then and all those rotisserie herbs will have added tremendous flavor to the broth.
Taste the broth and if it needs salt and pepper, add it. Drop in some caraway seeds and paprika if you want a true Hungarian flavor! A dribble of tomato sauce, catsup or a tablespoon of tomato paste improves the flavor. At this point, I like to add a little “Better than Bullion” in the roasted chicken flavor. You might also need as much as another quart of water.
Finish the soup by adding a cup of uncooked noodles or tiny pasta. Garnish it with fresh parsley. Delicious! In less than an hour, you have a soup that tastes and smells like it cooked all afternoon!