"Every nationality has some kind of chicken soup. It's one of the simplest meals you can make and almost everyone can find a chicken and some vegetables to cook up a big, satisfying pot of soup for the family. Some people even ascribe magical medicinal qualities to chicken soup, and who am I to disagree? The Greeks have a chicken and lemon soup called avgolemono, Italians make tortellini en brodo, the Vietnamese have pho and, of course, the Chinese make egg drop soup with chicken broth. I grew up on chicken soup with matzo balls, so that's my particular favorite. The broth starts with whole chickens and vegetables, plus fresh herbs like parsley and thyme, an entire head of garlic and lots of salt and pepper. I simmer it away for hours while I futz around the house and make some easy matzo balls. I end up with a rich, delicious soup that will delight everyone on a cold night!" says Ina.
Place the chickens, onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic and seasonings in a 16- to 20-quart stockpot. Add 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Remove 2 of the chickens and allow to cool slightly. Remove the breast meat from both chickens and set aside. Return the remaining chicken and carcasses to the pot and continue simmering, uncovered, for 3 more hours. Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and chill. Remove the surface fat, then reheat the stock as follows, or pack in containers and freeze.
To serve the soup, return the stock to the pot and reheat, adding the diced carrots, celery, dill and parsley. Shred the reserved chicken breast meat into large pieces and add to the stock. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes to cook the vegetables and reheat the chicken. Season to taste and serve as is, or ladle each serving over 1 or 2 warm matzo balls.
For the matzo balls:
Whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup chicken stock, chicken fat, parsley and salt. Stir in the matzo meal. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff. Whisk them into the matzo mixture until it is smooth. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or until the mixture is thick.
Bring a pot of chicken stock to a simmer (about 3 quarts). Form matzo balls the size of golf balls by shaping them with 2 spoons, rolling them with your hands or scooping them with a small ice cream scoop. Drop them into the simmering stock and cook for 30 minutes, or until fully cooked and puffed, turning once. Remove and serve hot in the chicken soup.