I know this is a mighty lofty thing to say about a humble soup I came up with while sick, but sniffles or not, this is the best chicken soup recipe… ever! There, I said it, because if ever there was something to stake my reputation on, this here chicken soup would be it, and that’s not the NyQuil talking.
Beyond its curative abilities, chicken soup isn’t something I normally crave. If I’m lucky to have the time to make it from scratch, the meat often ends up dry and stringy by the time the broth is ready, and while I could find a butcher that will sell me chicken bones separately, I don’t really have the will or the energy to look for chicken carcasses when I feel the plague setting in. I know there’s always the canned variety, but eating that musty, watered-down chicken liquid is a bit like fighting Ebola with Echinacea.
I can’t guarantee that this chicken soup will miraculously cure your cold, but it will soothe your inner foodie, with the kind of lingering umami that will have you smacking your lips long after you’ve slurped the last spoonful of the heavenly clear broth. The chicken, carrots, and avocado add a splash of colour to your dreary day, while the variety of flavours and textures they provide titillate your senses at a time when applesauce feels like all you can stomach.
What do you like to eat when you’re sick?
When your home from work sick, you may lack energy, but I’m going to guess you make up for that in time. That’s why this recipe is so perfect. It takes a bit of time to make, but beyond some minimal chopping and dumping, this chicken soup requires almost no effort; and for that, you’re rewarded with a dreamy clear broth and chicken so moist you’d swear it was cooked separately.
The secret lies in the gentle poaching of the chicken, followed by the removal of the meat and simmering of the bones until the soup is full of flavour. I’ve given this a vaguely Latin American twist, but you could have fun with it and make it more Asian by adding ginger and ginseng, or more European with some fresh thyme and rosemary instead of cilantro.
So if you feel the dreaded flu coming on, get thee to the grocery store and find the best quality organic chicken you can, because getting sick sucks, but getting sick with a bowl of this chicken soup to awaken your taste buds and nourish your belly, will make it suck just a little bit less.
Best Chicken Soup
1 whole 3-4lbs chicken
1 medium onion cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic smashed with flat side of knife
2 stalks celery leaves and stems chopped
Stems and roots from 1 bunch of cilantro
2 bay laurel leaves (or 1 california bay leaf)
1 Tbs kosher salt
2 carrots, each cut into 2-3 large pieces
cilantro and lime for serving
Put the chicken in a stock pot just big enough to hold it. Scatter the onion, garlic, celery, cilantro, bay leaves and salt around the chicken. Cover the chicken with water, put a lid on the pot, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling for 5 minutes. Then, turn off the heat, allowing the chicken to poach in the water for 45 minutes (don’t open the lid during this time).
When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the stock and allow it to cool off enough to touch. Remove and discard the skin, then strip the meat off the bones into bite size pieces. Cover the chicken and refrigerate until the soup is done.
Return the bones back into the stock pot along with any collected juices from the chicken. Cover, and return the soup to a boil. When it boils, turn down the heat and simmer for 3 hours.
Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. Skim off any excess oil then add the soup back to the pot along with the carrots. Cook the carrots until tender and salt the soup to taste.
To serve, put down some chicken, carrots and avocado in a bowl. Pour the hot stock over everything and garnish with cilantro and a wedge of lime.