Monday, December 30, 2013

Get Well Chicken Soup

You're under the weather...
Make chicken soup!

Jewish law mandates that chicken soup is the cure-all for cold and flu season afflictions.  My mother always passionately advises, "It's a natural antibiotic!"  Whether its medicinal effects are psychosomatic or scientifically proven, this soup has healing properties. If you're feeling perfectly fine, it's also just a great dish on a cold winter day.

When I was growing up,  every Friday night my mom made her hearty chicken noodle soup.  On every Jewish holiday, my grandmother made her elegant and crystal clear chicken broth with large floating matzoh balls, garnished with fresh dill. My soup is influenced by both of their recipes, but just as they deviated from each other, I too have come up with my own methodology. You can make chicken soup a thousand different ways, and this is my simple, hard-to-mess-up recipe.

Get Well Chicken Soup
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, medium dice
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, medium dice
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 large organic chicken, cut up into parts (I actually used one large breast (BONE-IN), a leg, and two thighs... you could even use a whole chicken, just add more of the other stuff)
2 quarts water
1 bouillon cube (optional)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped (imperative)
Juice of one lemon (crucial)
1 box quinoa shells (or use regular pasta shells, or any shape you fancy)

Prepare all of your ingredients for the soup.  Dice the vegetables, and season the raw chicken with 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 teaspoons of pepper.

On medium heat, add the olive oil to a large pot or Dutch oven.  Add the diced carrot, onion and celery to the pot, and allow the vegetables to sweat and soften, about 10 minutes.  Add the minced garlic to the vegetables and cook the mixture for 2 more minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground black pepper, bay leaf, and fresh thyme to the softened vegetables.

Add the seasoned chicken parts to the pot.  Add 2 quarts of water, or add enough water to cover the chicken and vegetables by 2 inches.

Bring the soup to a low boil, turn down the heat and simmer the soup for 1 hour or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through and the flavors have melded together. While the soup is simmering, check on it every so often and skim the top of extra fat with a spoon.  You can add a bouillon cube while the soup simmers if you want more chicken and spice flavor, but this is very optional.  If you do add a bouillon cube, just make sure not to add too much salt.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the pasta in a separate pot according to the instructions on the box.  I like to keep my shells separate from the soup so that they don't get mushy.

Taste the soup, and add salt and pepper as needed.  Once the soup is cooked and seasoned to your liking, turn off the heat.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the cooked chicken from the pot and transfer to a cutting board.  Remove the meat from the bone, and cut the meat into bite-sized cubes. Add the cubed chicken, the freshly chopped dill and parsley, and the juice of one lemon to the pot. The fresh herbs and lemon add brightness and flavor to the dish. If the soup has cooled too much, bring it back to a low simmer.

To serve, add  the cooked shells to a large soup bowl.  Ladle the piping hot soup onto the shells, sprinkle with any extra dill or parsley, and serve!

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