A few years ago, my friend Jennifer told me her entire family was sick with the crud. What I heard was, “Stop at Kroger and pick up a ten-pack of chicken thighs to make the Johnstons some soup.” I got home and immediately set about making a pot of chicken soup. My husband came home and the first thing he asked when he walked in the kitchen was, “Who’s sick?”
Here’s what I remember most about my visit to Jennifer’s house to drop off the soup. I rang the doorbell, and her husband Tom opened the door. I brought the hot soup into the kitchen, left it on the counter along with a bag of cooked pasta, and wished Tom well. He walked me to the door, and after I had turned the doorknob to leave, he picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted a few drops into my hands. I’m not sure why that was so memorable to me, but it was. Maybe it was that Tom was taking good care of his visitors, too, and that was such a kind-hearted thing to do.
A few weeks ago I arrived sick with a cold in Florida. My mom’s sister, Rachelle, heated up a bowl of homemade chicken soup for me. Rachelle’s soup was warm and wonderful and I, of course, asked how she made it. She uses my bone broth recipe to make her chicken stock and her mother’s recipe to make the soup.
I love that Rachelle still uses her mother’s Revere soup pot from the Fifties to make soup.
I thought it was funny that Rachelle’s soup pot looked like the Revere soup pot our great-grandmother, Mamanika, used to make her Italian cookie dough.
A few words about soup ingredients before we get started cooking a pot of Sick Soup.
Lately, a lot of people are writing about the health benefits of bone broth. My friend Lou Ann recently sent me a link for Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, GOOP, where their writers extol the virtues of bone broth. You can read that story here.
I’ve written quite a few recipes for chicken soup over the last year, and readers have asked which method for making chicken stock is my favorite. I’ve listed each method in order of most flavorful:
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
This stock is made with raw thigh meat, bones, veggies, aromatics, and water.
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
This stock is made with roasted bones, veggies, aromatics, and water.
Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
This stock is made with water and roasted turkey bones.
Kelly’s Duck Stew & Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
This stock is made with a reduced-sodium chicken base, from a jar, mixed with water. I don’t bother to use a homemade chicken stock when there are so many other ingredients in a recipe that would camouflage the taste of a bone broth.
Canned Stewed Tomatoes:
I like to purée stewed tomatoes before using them in a recipe. While I love the instant flavor boost you get from a can of stewed tomatoes, I don’t care for the texture or taste of sliced and diced tomatoes. Rachelle turned me on to Del Monte’s brand of “Italian Recipe” Stewed Tomatoes and I like it.
Heel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese:
Using the heel of a wedge of Parmesan as flavoring was Mom’s secret ingredient in both her spaghetti sauce and soup. I grew up with a baggie of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese heels in the refrigerator and for the longest time, I had no idea why Mom saved them. Truth be told, I may have even thrown a few away when I was cleaning out her refrigerator. Big mistake. Those Parmesan heels are solid gold. They are an instant flavor booster. They are also a little salty so be sure to taste test your soup before adding salt. Chicken carcasses, heels of cheese. You probably think I have eye of newt in my fridge, too.
4 quarts chicken stock
2 cans Italian-Style stewed tomatoes, puréed
1 can Fire-Roasted tomatoes, puréed
6 cups sliced celery (1½ pounds)
6 cups sliced carrots (2 pounds)
½ heel from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
2 pounds cooked chicken meat
2 teaspoons garlic pepper
salt to taste
And for a heartier soup version:
1 head of escarole or other mildly bitter green, leaves washed and chopped
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pasta or ravioli, cooked in a separate pot of water
Mise en Place:
1) Add stock to a large soup pot and heat until the gelatinous stock melts.
2) Add tomatoes, carrots, celery, and the Parmesan heel. Bring to a boil over high heat and then simmer over low heat for about one hour.
3) Add chopped chicken and beans and simmer another 30 minutes.
4) About five minutes before you are ready to serve, stir in the greens. They will wilt almost immediately. Turn off the heat.
5) Adjust seasoning by adding salt and garlic pepper as needed
6) If serving with pasta, cook per the package’s instructions.
Escarole is sometimes hard to find in Nashville. I would check Whole Foods first and if they don’t have it in stock, try Kroger. It is often the green of choice for many Italian soups. It is mildly bitter.
If you are going to serve pasta with your soup, I recommend using a box of ditalini, a small tubular and chewy pasta. It has always been my family’s favorite soup pasta. Cook it in a separate pot of water so the pasta doesn’t absorb all of your broth. Store unused cooked pasta in a separate container.
Rachelle’s chicken soup is a great sick soup because there is a lot of broth in it that warms your soul and heals what ails you.
Sick Soup can easily become a very hearty Snowy Day Stew by adding artichoke hearts, rosemary, and ravioli. Last week, for a quickly organized dinner party for neighbors during a snow storm, I used a 20-ounce package of Buitoni Four Cheese Ravioli instead of the ditalini. I cooked the pasta in a separate pot; just as I recommend doing for the ditalini. Be sure to have a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the table to share.
One of my dinner guests, on that snowy evening, was my neighbor, Ann Shayne, of the dynamic knitting duo at MasonDixonKnitting.com. Ann and Kay Gardiner have recently published a best-selling knitter’s coloring book. Check it out here. Rachelle colored the picture on the right from her copy of the coloring book. In the background of the photo on the left, you can see the knitted mitered-square blanket that Kay taught me how to make. There are how-to instructions for knitting this blanket in MDK’s first knitting book.
Like bone broth, knitting is good for you, too; just ask New York Times health columnist, Jane Brody. She recently posted an article about the health benefits of knitting in the NYT. I’ll find out real quick if my sons read my blog by whether they notice I’ve exposed a Mom’s Trade Secret about raising them in a comment I posted in response to Brody’s article.
So, here’s to a little winter cold therapy with sick soup, or cups of bone broth, knitting, and coloring.
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