Everyone thinks of chicken soup as being a healing food, but we try to drink some bone broth every day this time of year–before we get sick. It tastes great–and we love hot soup on cold days–but it also strengthens the body’s immune system and keeps us from getting sick in the first place. With four kids sharing germs with each other, we need all the immune boosting we can get.
I’d love to dodge the nasty germs altogether, but I’m also preparing for the seemingly inevitable winter sicknesses. That means stocking up on Kleenex and cough drops, sterilizing the humidifier, and packing our freezer full of homemade chicken soup.
If you’ve never made your own, I want you to know two things: 1. It’s not that hard. and 2. It’s worth it.
Good chicken soup starts with good chicken stock, and there are as many recipes as there are cooks. They all follow the same general method: cover meaty bones and maybe some vegetables with water and simmer for hours.
To get started, I recommend Michael Ruhlman’s turkey stock recipe, or Smitten Kitchen’s perfect, uncluttered chicken stock, (although I usually do the scraps-and-bones method she dislikes, because I like it just fine).
This is a terrific time of year to make stock, because if you roast a Thanksgiving turkey, half the work is already done. Turkey stock is every bit as good (some chefs say better) than chicken stock. Last week we roasted our own turkey because my kids didn’t want to wait any longer–and then we made amazing soup, two ways.
(Pro tip: for occasions that aren’t Thanksgiving Dinner, I take a page from one of my favorite cookbooks and butterfly the turkey. My ten-pounder cooked in one hour. Seriously.)
I pulled the meat off the bones, added water to cover, and let it all just barely simmer for a few hours. I added vegetables during the last hour, but you could get by without them. I read–I think in a Mark Bittman cookbook–that adding onion skins lend a lovely color to the broth, so I always do.
Strain it through paper towels or a sieve, and ta da! You have a lovely broth. (I chill mine to easily skim the fat off the top, but you don’t have to.)
With your broth made, you’re just a few steps away from tasty soup.
My family loves Thai chicken soup, so I concocted a fast and easy (and completely inauthentic) recipe. I stir in curry powder for the last 30 seconds the vegetables are browning, then stir in coconut milk, sriracha, and cilantro. My kids prefer this variation over plain chicken soup, and I like that the fat from the coconut milk keeps them feeling full for a little while longer.
(If you believe the old wives’ tale that spicy foods are good for colds, go heavy on the sriracha.)
Easy Thai Chicken Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or other cooking fat
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
- cooked rice, if desired
- sriracha, if desired
- cilantro to garnish, optional
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté the vegetables until gently browned. Add curry powder and a pinch of salt, and sauté for thirty more seconds. Add chicken broth. Taste and add more salt and/or curry powder, if desired.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes to finish cooking vegetables and allow flavors to blend. Remove saucepan from heat and add coconut milk and shredded chicken and rice, if desired. Garnish with sriracha and chopped cilantro.
Ironically, I got a not-terrible-but-not-fun cold the day after I bought my 4-pack of Kleenex and made my soup. I was bummed about the cold (obviously), but at least I had soup and tissues at the ready. (Although now I need to replenish my freezer stash.)
Do you do homemade stock and soup? Share a link to your favorite recipe in comments.