Sick Soup (Chicken Soup Two Ways)
We were told well before enrolling her (hell, before her birth!), that once you send your kid to daycare, you’ll have every virus in the country running through your house with a cocktail in its hand and its party hat on. But this is ridiculous. In the last few weeks, I have made chicken soup (Jewish mother than I am) three times because we all had colds, then Francesco got pneumonia (!), then gastritis caused by the antibiotics, then I got pnuemonia (!). First of all, who gets pneumonia? I thought pneumonia was reserved for hospital patients and the very elderly. And so I boiled that chicken and laboriously pulled the steaming meat off bones and then continued boiling the bones….then I did it all again, and again…..until. I got too sick to care.
This time around, I needed a fast way to chicken soup healing. A fast way without the option of running to the nearest Whole Foods, without the option of calling one of our mothers. And I had plenty of time to strategize as I waited for the pharmacies to open. I know, what? Pharmacies that aren’t always open? Not only do we live in a Whole Foods-less, mother-less land, but the pharmacies (“chemists”) here aren’t even remotely open around the clock. And we live in the middle of the biggest metropolis in the country. So I was that girl nervously waiting outside at 8:55 am as my husband, shivering and convulsing at home, left me voice messages that said, in the smallest of voices, “hurry”. I probably looked like I was waiting to score some Oxycontin or something (when all I wanted was Mylanta) but it didn’t matter.
So after purchasing and delivering the Mylanta – which triggered an adverse reaction that you really don’t want me to go into – and without Whole Foods, my own Jewish mumshki, or anymore patience, I took a major shortcut on the road to chicken soup. I went up to the fried foods shop up the street and bought a rotisserie chicken.
Now I’m not sure if it was because it was warm, soothing and so damn easy, but I think it might have been the best chicken soup of the whole bunch. During Francesco’s Italian childhood, chicken soup consisted of nothing but broth. JUST the broth. No pieces of chicken, no carrots or celery, no rice.
I cringed serving him nothing but clear liquid for days on end so eventually made the last batch with some chicken and rice. It was delightful, and even little Stella had some.
For the purists out there, I’ll include a classic chicken soup recipe, mostly dictated from across the world by my very own Jewish mother. For those who need a pot of chicken soup and need it fast, you definitely won’t miss out if you use a rotisserie chicken.
CLASSIC JEWISH CHICKEN SOUP
1 chicken, washed inside and out
1 celery stalk, some leaves included
1 bunch fresh parsley
Coarsely chop all the vegetables. Put all the veggies, the whole chicken, and the entire bunch of parsley (stems and all) in a large pot. Add the tiniest pinch of salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer with the lid on for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat. Skim off and discard any impurities (foamy bits) that rose to the surface. Carefully remove the chicken (it will be hot), and place it in a bowl. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and reserve. Return the bones to the pot and keep boiling for another few hours.
Now, strain out and discard all the bones and, if you want, the vegetables, too. Run the soup through a sieve. (You can add a new batch of vegetables and boil them until they are tender. Or you can just keep the veggies in the broth.) Cool the soup a bit and skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Add some of the chicken meat which you’ve shredded into little pieces back into the soup. (You’ll have a lot of meat leftover to make deliciousness like chicken pot pie, coronation chicken salad, or chicken sandwiches). Serve with saltines and some fresh parsley.
If you want your chicken soup with rice, just throw in about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of washed white rice after straining out the bones and fat. Boil the soup for 20 or so minutes, until the rice is tender.
NB: My mom nearly always adds hawaij, a middle eastern spice mix often used in Israel. Alternatively, you could add some cumin, turmeric, coriander and cardamom.
SUPER FAST CHICKEN SOUP (with our without rice)
1 rotisserie chicken
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, quartered with the peel left on
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
1/2 cup rice
Remove the chicken meat from the bones. Set the meat aside; put the bones and skin in a large pot and add all the vegetables and parsley. Cover with water and add the tiniest pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for a few hours, skimming off any impurities. (You may want to substitute a bit of store-bought chicken broth for water.) Meanwhile, take about 1 cup of chicken meat and shred it. (Reserve the rest of the meat for other yummy endeavors.)
Now strain out the soup through a sieve and save only the broth. Return the broth to the pot and add the rice; bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Add the chicken meat and serve.