Chicken soup to cure your woes

March 19, 2014 

You may think it an old wives' tale, but many swear by the curative powers of hot chicken soup.

Some people call it Jewish penicillin, and it has been touted by grandmothers for centuries. There is some sparse scientific evidence that the soup is a cure, but many people persist it is psychosomatic. Humbug!

Little sips of savory, hot chicken soup, warming the stomach can do wonders to cure the soul.

And it can be nutritious, too. If it is a good homemade soup, it is loaded with protein, fresh vegetables and lots of tasty fat.

Any good chicken soup must start with a good stock. Some of the store-bought stocks, especially the organic ones, are pretty good, but nothing beats homemade.

BASIC CHICKEN STOCK

1 whole chicken, free range and organic if possible

1/2 cut thick-cut carrots

1/3 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped red onion

4-5 cloves chopped garlic

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Give the chicken a good rub with the olive oil, and sprinkle inside and out with pepper. Roast the bird on a baking sheet for 30 minutes, remove and allow to cool. Place everything, including the scrapings from the pan, in a large stock pot, and cover with water. Simmer slowly until the bird is very tender. Remove the bird and de-bone. Reserve the meat for another use. Now you have two choices; remove the bay leaf and using an immersion blended blend into a thick stock, or strain to get a clear stock. Leaving everything in the stock makes for a more flavorful result, but the clear stock is more visually appealing. If you are on a budget roast the chicken and serve it as a main course, but use the carcass to make the stock. It will be a bit thin compared with the recipe above, but if your budget is tight, a thin stock it must be.

CLASSIC CHICKEN SOUP

4 cups chicken stock (see above)

4-6 bone in chicken thighs

1/4 cup finely diced pork sausage

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup shredded carrot

4-5 chopped cloves of garlic

1-2 pinches Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Season the chicken thighs aggressively and then sauté in hot oil until well-browned. Whatever you do, do not remove the skin. Remove the chicken and set it aside. Add the sausage and cook until well-browned, add the onion, carrot and bell pepper and sauté for 10 minutes over medium low

flame. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the chicken and cover with stock, now simmer until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and de-bone it, casting off the bones. Add the meat to the soup, taste and re-season as necessary. Whether you want to add a starch to your soup is a personal decision. Dumplings are easy to make, and fortify the soup into something thick and satisfying.

If you don't want to take the trouble, buy a can of biscuits and cut each one into quarters, simmer in the soup until they rise to the surface.

If dumplings are not your thing, add rice or your favorite noodle. It is certainly just as good to serve your chicken soup unadulterated, if you are a purest.

HOMEMADE DUMPLINGS

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup oil

3/4 cup water

2 small eggs

3 cups flour

Combine the first four ingredients, then slowly blend in the flour. Roll into small balls and drop into the soup and simmer until done, 15 to 20 minutes.

QUICK CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP

1, 32-ounce container organic chicken stock

3-4 boneless, no antibiotic, free range chicken thighs

1 medium chopped onion

1/4 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup jasmine rice

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil

Add a little chopped sausage when you cook the onions if you like

Cook the rice in a small stock pot by adding 1 cup of water, putting the lid on, and simmering for about 20 minutes. Do not remove lid during cooking or the steam will escape. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then sauté over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes on each side. It does not have to be fully cooked. Remove and set aside. Add the onions and carrots to the same pan and cook for 10 minutes, add the chicken and stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken, cut into bite sizes and add back to the pot. Add the steamed rice, a nice scoop on top, and serve immediately.

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