My day didn’t go exactly as planned, yesterday. Which isn’t all that uncommon for me since that fateful day a little over eleven years ago when I gave birth to my first child.
Over the years I have discovered and mastered a key parental survival skill; the ability to change course and speed on a dime and without a grumble; at least not where the children can overhear you. Which is why I dropped (gently) what I was doing at work, got in the car, and drove for a half an hour to my daughter’s school when the nurse called to inform me that my little rug-monkey had a fever, a sore throat and needed her mommy to pick her up as soon as possible.
My mother’s prescription for whatever ailed me was a steaming-hot bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, with salted-top saltine crackers coarsly crumbled and added in while it was still bubbling on the stove. This step was extremely important, as the crackers would soften up and become the pseudo-dumplings that made everything right with the world.
In keeping with family tradition, it is required that I make chicken noodle soup whenever one of my girls is sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching has a stuffy head or fever. Unlike mom, I have always made my soup from scratch.
That may have been a mistake.
You see I’ve painted myself into a corner. If a daughter gets sick and I suggest a nice, easy-to-open can of Campbell’s soup, I get pouted at.
“But the last time <insert sibling name> was sick, she got real soup.”
“How come she gets real soup and I don’t?”
Here it comes…
“Don’t you love ME as much as you love HER?”
I really can’t win.
So I’ll just be in the kitchen. Cooking soup.
I won’t lie to you; this isn’t a 30 minute meal. But if you start making it just after onset of symptoms, it’s usually ready to eat by the time the Tylenol kicks in, the fever breaks, and the patient is starting to feel just the teeniest bit hungry.
You will get a nice big bowl of chicken meat from your bird, and a really ugly carcass with leftover meat bits clinging to it. This is the best part. Honest. Throw that sucker back into the pot with your aromatics, and let it simmer away until you finally remember you have something cooking on the stove.
After that things get a little ugly . Strain all of the cooked bits out of your rich, chickeny stock. You can use cheesecloth, but I use a clean cotton kitchen towel. I rinse it before use to get rid of any residual detergent. Soapy soup is not what I’m going for here.
FYI: This is the same recipe I use when I have chicken scraps to use up and it makes a darn fine chicken stock.
Chop up some fresh carrots and celery.
Any noodle will do ya, but I love a thick and substantial egg noodle. If the patient is complaining of a sore throat, I might use a smaller, easier-to-swallow soup noodle. Maybe. If I felt like it.
Then you will need to corral your youngest daughter when she gets home from school and have her pose with the exceedingly sharp knife so that you can get a picture of real hands cutting real food, so that people don’t think that your ingredients magically chop themselves. Then you must quickly remove said knife from said little hands before they magically become a finger shorter.
Chicken. Chopped. Sort of self explanitory, really.
What all of this boils down to is a warm, rich and hearty soup that I’ve been told makes the sniffles just a bit more bearable and the aches just a little less achy. And if consumed in sufficient quantities, it can even make a pouty, sick girl smile, just a little.
So tell me, what food do you make that helps someone you love feel better when they’re sick? What makes you feel better when you’re sick?
Chicken Noodle Soup
For the stock:
4-5 lb whole chicken
1 medium onion, skin removed and halved
2 cloves garlic, smashed
½ tsp whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 or 3 whole allspice berries (optional)
1 carrot, quartered
1 celery stalk, quartered
2 sprigs parsley
2 tsp kosher salt
3 quarts (or more) water
For the soup:
8 oz egg or other soup noodles
4 cups chicken, diced, reserved from making stock
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 batch chicken stock (see above)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all of the stock ingredients in a Dutch over or other heavy pot. Add water to completely cover the chicken, about 3 quarts. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and remove chicken from pot. Leave the vegetables in the stock. Allow chicken to cool until you can handle it easily. Remove the chicken meat from the carcass and set it aside. Return the carcass to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 ½ hours. Allow stock to cool slightly, then strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a cotton towel set over a strainer. Return stock to the pot and add diced chicken, fresh carrots and celery. Bring to a boil and add the egg noodles. Cook until noodles are tender (according to package directions). Remove from heat adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper, and add the fresh parsley. Serve with crusty bread or crackers.