With my cousin Monika visiting from Poland for the summer, we’ve all had fun reconnecting with our Polish roots. Chris grew up with a Polish father and Polish grandparents, so he’s been practicing speaking his very rusty Polish with Monika, much to her amusement.
My Dad asked that I learn how to make a traditional Polish chicken noodle soup while Monika is here. When he traveled to Poland to visit his relatives several years ago they served him this soup, and he said it was the best he’d ever had. I was up to the challenge!
Monika emailed her mother for the family recipe, and we set out on our adventure of gathering the ingredients and preparing the meal. I took Monika and the kids to one of the many Polish neighborhoods here in Chicago. Nearly one third of all Polish immigrants in the US live in Chicago, so there is an abundance of Polish grocery stores and restaurants here. We stopped by one of my favorites, Kurowski’s Sausage Shop in Avondale.
As soon as we arrived, the kids spied the wide array of imported chocolates and candies. I gave little Vivian a Princessa bar to keep her busy in the stroller while we shopped.
When we visit Kurowski’s, I always pick up some Polish butter. It is richer and creamier than the American version – perfect on toast! The other day, I let Mack choose some, too.
Whenever we shop in Avondale, store employees always speak to me in Polish and I have absolutely nothing to say back other than a hopeful “English?” So, for this trip I was grateful to have Monika with me to do all the ordering. Thanks to her native Polish, she easily found all the ingredients we needed for our soup, including the most important ingredient: chicken!
We made the soup that night and served it with pierogi and kielbasa. The soup was warm and comforting, simple and totally delicious. I commented to Monika that it seemed like the perfect thing to eat when feeling sick. She said her stepfather jokes it is a perfect hangover cure!
What I find so special about this simple soup is that the recipe Monika shared likely has a strong similarity to the soup my Polish great-great grandmother Annelle would have made. Annelle’s sister was Monika’s great-great grandmother, and I’m sure they both learned how to make this traditional soup from their mother. The thread of our family heritage grew a little stronger with this meal.
Homemade Polish Chicken Soup
Small bone-in beef shank
1/2 a chicken, cut up
1 large carrot
1 leek, white part only
1/8 head of cabbage
1 stalk celery
3 bay leaves
5 whole allspice
1 cube beef bullion
salt, to taste
Polish noodles (Monika likes the thinner Ek Mak brand, but I know my grandfather likes the wider Kluski)
Fill a very large pot with cold water and drop in beef shank and chicken. Bring to a boil, then add all the veggies and spices. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 3+ hours.
Once the broth has simmered to your delight, remove everything and discard (Monika said her family dog is always thrilled with the leftover meat!). Keep the carrot as a garnish, if you’d like. Strain the liquid into a new pot and keep warm over low heat.
Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain and portion into serving bowls. Ladle in the broth and top with some chopped parsley and a bit of the carrot from the broth.
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