In the last post I mentioned that there has been a lot of colds flying around lately. I remember when I was little there were certain foods I always ate when I got sick and will forever be associated with comfort and nurturing. We were always served ginger ale, crackers, Jello and tea with milk and honey. I can remember being wrapped tightly in blankets and given free range of the television while I was doted on and worried about by my mother. Even if I felt lousy, it sure felt good to be spoiled like that and get the "special sick treatment". Maybe you have some rituals, too.
One of the first things I make (besides an ice cold glass of ginger ale and a sleeve of crispy saltines) is hearty and classic chicken noodle soup. Research suggests that chicken noodle soup can actually lessen the severity of cold symptoms! If you are interested in the science behind the soup you could start with this great article by the New York Times here called "The Science of Chicken Soup".
I like the versatility of this soup. You can add as many veggies as you like and vary the noodles or even add wild rice. It freezes well and feels so warm and nourishing on a cold winter day. Did I mention how great your whole house smells? This recipe, sick or not, is a great winter dinner and is universally loved by all family members (There are not many meals I can say that about!).
Just in case this is tempting you to whip up a big ole' pot of chicken soup, I thought I would share my very simple recipe and go ahead and make some with you!
O.K., Get out the biggest pot you have in the house. You know, the giant one with a nice heavy bottom that is tucked away in your cabinet with about 300 heavy things piled on top of it or in it? That one.
You will need:
One whole chicken: (Mine was a medium size, a little bigger than a football). Get the best quality you can find and afford. I try to get organic and grass-fed when possible because I have watched way too many documentaries....nuff said.
Three large carrots
Three medium stalks of celery
Three bulbs garlic- We like to keep the vampires away so we go heavy on the garlic. If you are not a garlic fan, use one or two instead!
Noodles: I chose Orzo for a change (and because that is what we had....the true beauty of this simple soup....use what you have!
One large yellow onion
Feel free at this point to rummage through your fridge and cabinets and see what you've got. Maybe you want to throw in a sweet potato or a parsnip. Whatever floats your boat.
Optional Ingredients: Chicken broth
Better than Broth: As I have mentioned in this post, I love this stuff for adding a flavor and richness to my broth.
Cilantro: I used this to garnish the soup. I personally love the taste but use what you like!
O.K, Let's get cookin!
First, get your chicken out of the package. Empty out giblets (if there are any). Most recipes will tell you to rinse your chicken and pat it dry. Recently I read that if you rinse the chicken, it only splatters the germs everywhere and that you should skip that step. Whatever you do, just make sure disinfect whatever the chicken comes into contact with. Put that bird into your giant pot and fill it with water until it covers the chicken.
Rinse and chop your celery.
Peel and chop your carrots. Someone taught me to curl the tips of my fingers when chopping with a sharp knife. An excellent way not to lose a fingertip.
Now get your gas mask out and cut the onion. I never fail to get burning eyes and cry for 10 minutes after cutting these. I think it is a little better when they have been refrigerated and I hold my breath but without fail, as soon as I think I have escaped, I start to feel the burn...Doh!!! Curses start flying. If anyone has a fail safe method I would love to know how to avoid this fate!
Cut and peel your garlic. I just trimmed the points off the ends and peeled.
Now throw all that goodness into the pot. Add a nice dash of salt and pepper if you so desire. Pop it on the stove on high heat to bring it to a rolling boil. Once a rolling boil has been achieved, turn the temp down to medium and let it simmer and fill your home with a delicious aroma.
Let the soup simmer, checking on it and stirring from time to time. After 2 hours, check the chicken for done-ness. It should be falling off the bones if you poke it with a fork. I let mine go for four hours. When the broth started evaporating, I cheated and added some chicken broth.
When all was said and done, I added one and 1/2 of these cartons (about 48 ounces). Then I added two teaspoons of my favorite magic ingredient:
Here is what it looks like now. I am ready to put the chicken and broth through a strainer.
Here is the broth with the chicken and vegetables strained. You could put your veggies back in but my kids prefer that I keep my veggies to myself. That's O.K., more for me.
Take your cooked, falling off the bone, chicken and use a fork to remove all the meat
Now add the chicken back to the broth and bring it to a boil. I cut the chicken up a little before adding it but just a matter of personal preference. Once the broth is boiling, add the pasta of your choice and cook according to the pasta instructions. Most commonly, egg noodles are used but just use what you've got! We had Orzo (that little pasta shaped like a rice.)
Now serve and enjoy! I added some fresh cilantro. Now eat and start to feel yourself getting healthier by the minute. Hope you are staying good and healthy and if not, take yourself a nice steamy aromatherapy shower and then top it off with some good ole' chicken soup. You'll be feeling better in no time!