Do you remember the Chicken Soup for the Soul books that hit their stride in the late 90s? These were the paperback books packed with short, easy-to-read essays about people overcoming obstacles and doing unexpected, kind, wonderful things to inspire others. I loved these books. I would laugh and I would cry, and I bought every copy I could afford for anyone I could think of. My mom. My stepmom. Roommates. Sisters. Then the line expanded and I admit to getting a little burned out: Chicken Soup for Teens, Chicken Soup for the College Graduate, Chicken Soup for Dogs, Chicken Soup for Accountants, Chicken Soup for the Soul coffee mugs. Candles. Glass Angels. Aprons. It is now a publishing and consumer goods company in Connecticut that also produces a whole dog food range. And what is better for the soul than dogs? (Nothing)
The title is really what drew readers in. Of course Chicken Soup for the Soul. What is better when you are under the weather or feeling a little down? There is nothing like chicken soup (except matzoh ball soup but that is just chicken soup made a little better), it is a meal to fix broken bones, broken hearts, sore throats and the out-of-sorts. I have witnessed the restorative effects of Chicken Soup a handful of times but none as impactful as an experience I had just after college. My dad returned from a skiing vacation with a blown out knee which led to a hospital stay which led to an extremely nasty case of pneumonia. My stepmom took a leave from work to nurse him back to health and despite that, he, the stubborn Irishman that he is, decided he wouldn’t eat anything. (He later claimed that it was because everyone was trying to make him eat yoghurt – something he still shudders at today). I was managing and cooking at a bar & grill in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and I decided to make chicken soup at the restaurant that evening and bring him a batch. I delivered it the next day and stood by helplessly as he gingerly lifted his head and sipped at a small coffee cup of the warm broth, barely aware of my existence in his room. But something happened. It turned that out he liked it. He ate another bowl that night. He ate it again the next afternoon, and the next night and the night after that. My stepmom claimed it to be a miracle tonic. His color returned, his strength regained, he sat up in bed and he found a voice to declare that he would absolutely not be eating yoghurt ever again.
When my dad left London last week, after an 11-day visit, and I found myself and my three children all more than a little mopey I knew there was only one solution. There was only way to inject cheer into our sad little souls. Chicken noodle soup made it to the table for dinner.
I regret that in these photos I used plain spaghetti as my noodle-of-choice. It is not the most attractive but for this particular occasion I was really stressing comfort and familiarity for my family over photographic value. (Odd choice but I do it occasionally.) I always use a whole chicken over just chicken breasts because I like the texture of shredded chicken over chunked chicken breasts but you can really be flexible. This is a really simple recipe, there is nothing to fear here…just cook some veggies, make the broth and incorporate a few simple aromatics and you’ve got the power to heal. Use your power wisely.
- 1 whole organic free range chicken
- 1 small yellow onion, diced large
- 3 stalks celery, diced large
- 3 carrots, diced large
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 peppercorns
- 6 parsley stems
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 stalks of celery, sliced
- 1 small white onion
- 1 small fennel bulb (white only), sliced fine
- 3 sprigs of parsley (leaves only)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
- Place the chicken, onion, celery, carrots, bayleaf, peppercorns and parsley in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 90 minutes until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and place it in a large mixing bowl to cool. Strain the broth using a fine sieve and discarding all of the vegetables. DO NOT DISCARD THE BROTH!
- Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken. (This is best done with your hands and is a little messy but is really worth the effort.) In a smaller stock pot over medium heat add the olive oil. Add the sliced carrots, celery, onion and fennel. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring frequently. Add the chicken and the broth and, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley, lemon and lemon zest and cook for about 10 more minutes.
- Add cooked noodles to each bowl and ladle hot soup in on top. Serve hot and get well soon!