The best chicken soup is medicine. No, it’s not a vaccine or, say, insulin. But it is a home remedy that has actual medicinal properties. The science backs this up. Chicken soup is an anti-inflammatory for your upper respiratory system. That makes it great for nursing (not curing) the common cold or Rhinovirus if you will. And with another virus that attacks the respiratory system dominating every aspect of our lives right now, we thought it’d be a good time to throw down a classic chicken soup recipe.
Of course, chicken soup also soothes you. There’s a deep comfort in a bowl of piping hot chicken soup with egg noodles or rice or dumplings or matzo balls. It hits you deep and can be both deeply satisfying and genuinely calming. We think that sounds just right at this moment with so much popping off over COVID-19.
Before we dive in, we need to clarify point-blank that chicken soup’s scientifically backed pluses aside, it is not a vaccine. Yes, food is medicine. But we mean medicine for dealing with a weak respiratory system and nursing you back to health or providing crucial comfort-food vibes. It isn’t going to cure a virus, but it will help your body fight it.
If you’re making soup at home, you’re going to need a fair few ingredients to make a solid base. Here’s the deal: Use vegetables you have on hand. Onions, garlic, carrots, and celery are all pretty standard.
I’m also using fresh ginger, orange peel, and the top third of a leek. From there, it’s all about the aromatics to layer in flavor. I’m using star anise, juniper, allspice, cloves, peppercorns, fresh bay leaves, and fresh thyme.
Then there’s the actual soup. I like to add root vegetables in after I’ve made the chicken stock base. I generally use a parsnip, carrot, the rest of that leek, and a bunch of parsley. This adds a livelier flavor with more texture to the end product.
Then there’s the chicken. I’m going with a four-pound bird that’s been corn-fed, air-chilled, and locally and humanely raised. It’s a little costlier but worth it for peace of mind and a heightened flavor profile.
Lastly, there’s your starch. I’m going with egg noodles. It’s simple and classic. You can also go with rice, pasta of your choice, dumplings, or no starch at all. It’s up to you!
First things first, I get a 5l stock pot out and start layering it with my base of a quartered yellow onion, a head of garlic with the top chopped off, about an inch of thinly sliced ginger, the peel of one orange, the top third of a leek, two celery stalks, two carrots (both chopped into one-inch pieces), the fresh bay and thyme, and the juniper, allspice, cloves, and peppercorns.
I then add the chicken and water. I fill it near to the top and add about a one-eighth cup of sea salt.
Lastly, I ready my vegetables for later. I finely dice a parsnip, two carrots, the rest of the leek, and about half-a-bunch of fresh parsley. I set aside as I don’t need this for a bit.
I turn the heat to medium-high on my stove and bring the whole pot to a very, very low simmer. This is a slow process but will draw out any impurities from the chicken that you can skim off.
After I skim, I place a lid slightly ajar over the pot and let it simmer on the absolute lowest setting for at least an hour.
You’ll know it’s ready when the chicken is falling apart and the fluid has lowered by about one-quarter. Keeping that barest of simmers meant that our chicken stock isn’t too cloudy. As you can see above, it’s not crystal clear but it’s not muddy either.
I fish out the chicken with a big slotted spoon and place it in a bowl to cool down. In the meantime, I strain the stock base through a colander and sieve to clean the bits out of the stock. This is pretty easy. Just get a smaller stockpot (I’m using a 3l pot) and sieve the stock directly from one pot to the other.
I return the stock to the heat and drop in the carrot, parsnip, leek, and parsley. I bring that back up to a simmer and start in on the chicken.
The chicken should fall right off the bone. It’ll also be hot, so work carefully. Remove all the skin, cartilage, bones, and grey stringy bits. The breasts should just peel off as well. You can either hand tear the meat or slice it in one-inch cubes. It’s up to you.
Once that’s done, add the chicken back into the soup and let it simmer for at least 15 minutes or until the parsnip and carrot are tender and the leek is breaking down.
Now, taste test your soup for seasoning. Mine needs a bit more salt and pepper. I add maybe three good pinches of sea salt and maybe ten cranks from the pepper mill. I stir and let that gently simmer for another five minutes. Taste again and it’s ready.
I get some peanut butter sandwiches ready with a little sourdough rye I have around.
Then, and this is crucial, I cook the noodles separately. For one, this gives you the chance to serve the soup with other starches when you reheat. More importantly, if you cook the noodles in the soup, then they’re in the soup when you reheat that soup tomorrow. That means they’ll start to overcook/fall apart when you reheat. Nobody wants that, trust me.
So, yeah, I just boil off some egg noodles really quickly while the soup rests. Water, salt, heat, noodles, stir, strain, done.
I add maybe a one-half cup of al dente noodles to the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the soup over top. I add a little dollop of Sambal Olek chili sauce because all chicken soup needs a chili kick. And… we’re done.
We have a nourishing, earthy, umami-bomb chicken soup. All told it took about two-and-a-half hours from start to finish. That may seem like a lot of work but it’s worth it for how good this soup tastes and how long it’ll last. You should get about ten full bowls from this recipe.
- One 4 lb. Fresh Chicken
- One Leek
- One Yellow Onion
- Four Carrots
- One head of Garlic
- Two stalks of Celery
- One Parsnip
- One bunch of Fresh Parsely
- Two sprigs of Fresh Thyme
- Four leaves of Fresh Bay
- Two Star Anise
- Four Cloves
- Four Juniper Berries
- Six Allspice Berries
- Ten Black Peppercorns
- One-inch of Fresh Ginger
- One Orange
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
Optional: Egg Noodles, Rye Bread, Sambal Olek