The Healing Power of Soup

When I was little and felt sick – stomach sick, not head cold sick – my grandma used to make potato soup for me.  It mainly consisted of loads of starchy potatoes, salt and a bit of cream.  She said potato soup was the best medicine. It makes no sense in my grown-up mind to eat dairy when under attack from a stomach virus, but it always seemed to work then - and she had six kids so I know she knew what she was doing.

Recently, though, my husband had a head cold, so I decided to make a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. I’ve always heard it too was good medicine and make it often even if no one particularly needs a prescription. Sometimes I start with a mirepoix (sauteed carrot, onion, celery) and use my homemade stock and boneless, skinless breast or thigh pieces from the deep freeze for a quick pot or, when there is adequate time, simmer leg and thigh quarters all day, remove the skins and bones, separate the fat from the broth and go from there. Once in a while I like to add fresh cilantro and a dried Thai chili to switch it up a little. I add the chili in the beginning while all is simmering and the cilantro at the end to keep it a little fresh tasting. However I make it, I use garlic - and lots of it. I am a fresh garlic fiend and put it in almost everything. (Tried it w/ scrambled eggs once and it was…well, it just didn’t work.) 

For the soup, I put three leg/thigh quarters in a 10 quart stockpot, enough water to fill the pot halfway and twelve garlic cloves (yes, a whole dozen), and a couple teaspoons of dried thyme and sage and set it to simmer.  Four or five hours later, I pulled out the chicken and set it aside until it was cool enough to be handled easily, strained out the garlic, mashed and set it aside and separated the stock in my handy-dandy 4 cup Williams-Sonoma gravy separator. (I bought this one despite the price because I like the strainer top and the fact it is made of strong, shatterproof borosilicate glass - same stuff they use to make lab glass.)

Next I put the stock back into the pot along with the mashed garlic, three carrots and three stalks of celery cut thin with my Benriner Japanese Mandolin Slicer, 1/4 cup dehydrated onions, 1t fresh ground black pepper, 1t celery salt and kosher salt to taste, and the chicken (skin and bones removed).  Once the soup came to a boil, I added 1/2lb fusilli pasta and simmered until noodles and veggies are tender.   

Last thing is to serve up big bowls and enjoy.  Whether the health benefit of chicken soup is based on fact or fiction, I know a hot bowl of garlicy, peppery chicken soup makes me feel better. 

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