What we in Switzerland call soup-chickens (Suppenhühner) are old laying hens that have stopped producing enough eggs. So as long as we eat eggs, there will be soup-chickens! Unfortunately, because they take a long time to cook, there is a lack of demand for laying hen chickens and most of them are disposed of as meat waste after slaughter. In Switzerland, about 20 percent of all laying hens are used as food, while the others are processed into biogas. In a time where overconsumption of especially chicken breast is increasingly worrying and leads not only to more food waste but also to a global distribution of the chicken parts “we in Europe don’t eat”, using laying hen chicken meat is a fantastic way use every part of the chicken, reduce food waste locally and eat a little more eco-consciously.
Also: They actually taste great and if you plan ahead, you can make one, two, or even three chickens on a Sunday and have enough chicken left to feed your family for weeks! As an additional bonus: They cost very little!
In Switzerland you can get them in every bigger supermarket, like Coop or Migros, you find them in the freezer. As the demand is smaller then the production, you won’t have to worry about origin: all Soup-Chickens sold are local.
So with all those benefits, let’s get started with the basics first, followed by an easy Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe and further down you can also find inspiration for a variety of further meals you can do with all of your laying hen chicken meat!
Laying Hen Chicken: Meat and Broth
1 Laying Hen Chicken or Soup Chicken (Suppenhuhn) (approx. 1.5-2 kg, defrosted)
2 onions, halved, with skin
2 cloves (stuck in the onion halves)
2 bay leaves
1 leek, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
200g cellery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, halved
1 handful parsley stems, chopped
1-2 tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) of salt
Preparation (chicken meat and broth):
Wash the chicken inside and out. Make sure to chop off the excess fat and skin around its neck (if it is still left on) and the fat gland at the rear part of the chicken.
Place the chicken in a big pot with ca. 3-4 liters of water (the chicken should be covered completely). Add all the ingredients and bring the water to the boil. Cover the pot and let everything simmer for 2-3 hours. During that time, skim off the froth on top of the water from time to time. This is excess fat that does not taste very good.
Remove the chicken from the broth, skin it and pull apart all the meat. For one chicken it is usually between 600g and 1kg of meat, depending on the size of the chicken.
Sift off the broth into another pot. Remove the cloves, onion skin and bay leaves from the remaining vegetables. The vegetables will be very soft at this point, however, don’t through them away! You can still cut them in smaller bites and add them to the soup later on or you freeze them and add them to a puréed vegetable soup, for example to a pumpkin soup or a potato and leek soup (just add them ca. 5 minutes before puréeing the soup).
Chicken Noodle Soup:
Ingredients (2-4 people):
1l chicken broth (from above)
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 small leek (optional)
Your choice of cooked vegetables from above
400g of chicken
200g of ramen noodles (or Mie-Noodles)
salt and pepper
Season the broth and let it reduce for a bit on medium heat (ca. 15-20 minutes). Add the carrots and let everything simmer until carrots are soft enough. Add the vegetables and the chicken. Bring everything to the boil. Add the noodles and let simmer for ca. 3-5 minutes. Again, taste and season. And serve up your chicken noodle soup!
Portion the chicken meat in sealable containers and cover it with broth. This will help keep the meat moist. Put the containers in the freezer and leave until you need it for your next laying hen chicken dish. Then, just take the portion you need out of the freezer and put it into the fridge to defrost the night before. Basically, leftover laying hen chicken is the best part of it all, because there are so many delicious dishes you can make with it and they all taste amazing with the delicious and moist laying hen chicken flesh!
My go to dishes with Laying Hen Chicken are (all recipes will be up in the next 2 weeks):
Chicken Pot Pie
Thai inspired Chicken Red Curry Zoodle Soup
and I keep coming up with more!
Do you have any other suggestions?
Tip 1: You can always let it simmer longer, the broth will become richer the longer you let it simmer.
Tip 2: If you have time, let the chicken cool in the broth, it will keep it moist.
Tip 3: If you have more broth left you can always freeze it as well or use it the day after for a dish that requires broth, last time I for instance opted for a Risotto Milanese. The homemade chicken broth will give the dish you make a little extra flavor, I promise.
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