Chicken Soup for the Sick
From Mary Hunt, my favorite cheapskate!
Have you ever wondered if chicken soup really does have medicinal effects against colds and flu? Me, too. Recently I decided to find out.
Here’s what I learned: There is some scientific evidence to suggest that homemade chicken soup contains several ingredients that affect the body’s immune system. Dr. Stephen Rennard, University of Nebraska Medical Center says that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe sore throats and ease the misery of colds and flu. That’s good enough for me.
But here’s the problem as I see it: Typically, it takes a long time to turn out a pot of homemade chicken soup. And when you’re sick or someone you love is ailing the chances are slim that you’ll find three or more hours to make soup. But you don’t have to.
Here’s how to make rich, hearty and flavorful chicken soup in about 50 minutes—start to finish.
Chicken Noodle Soup
2 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1 whole chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds (I usually just boil a chicken [after removing the giblets, of course]
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 quarts boiling water
2 teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves
2 cups (3 ounces) wide egg noodles
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
[my own addition: 2 Tbsp corn starch to thicken the soup]
Prepare the chicken: Discard giblets and neck from the cavity (I take these out before I cook the chicken, I don't usually go buy a pre-cooked chicken).
With a cleaver, knife or poultry shears, hack off the legs, wings and thighs. Don’t worry about being neat. Cut each of these pieces into two or three smaller pieces. Cut the back from the breast, break and cut it into two halves. Hack the back into several pieces.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large stock pot or other large pot. Once very hot, drop in half of the chicken pieces and sauté until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the rest of the chicken. Place all chicken pieces in the bowl. (I skip this part, since I just put my chicken, or chicken pieces in a pot and cover with water or a couple of boxes of broth if I have them, and then pick the chicken from the bones, once it has cooked and cooled a bit.)
Add onion to the pot and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly colored and soft, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Find those two breast halves, and set them aside. Return the rest of the chicken to the pot, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes. (Using my own method, the chiken has already given up all it's juices to the stock pot.)
Increase heat to high, add boiling water, chicken breasts, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Bring back to simmer, cover and barely simmer until breasts are cooked, about 20 minutes. The dark broth will be extra rich and flavorful.
Remove the breasts from the pot and set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the breast meat from the bones. Discard skin and bones. Strain broth into a separate pot and discard the solids. All of the goodness has been cooked from the rest of the chicken, so you are not being wasteful. Skim fat for later use in other recipes or discard. Return the clear broth to the pot with the shredded chicken.
Bring back to boil. In a small skillet, sauté the chopped carrot and chopped celery in 1 tablespoon of oil. Add to the pot along with the egg noodles and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.
[At this point, I add 2 Tbsp. of corn starch to a spoonful of cool water and stir until smooth, then add to the pot while it's bubbling and stir until it's smooth and the soup is thickened.)
Adjust with salt and pepper as necessary and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
To your health!
Life is just a chance to grow a soul.