I’m sick. I’d wager that you’re sick, too. Or that if you’re not, you’re getting there.
If the sensationalist media is to be believed, the whole United States is in the midst of a pestilential deluge — a microbial tsunami sweeping all the dry noses, and all the unsore throats, away and out to sea. The online has been inundated with infographics. Google has its Flu Trends site, with its scary scarlet map. CNN is calling it an epidemic, keeping a running tally of hospitalizations, and suggesting that it has not yet peaked. FOX, I’m sure, is calling it a liberal-commie-fascist plot to get real Americans to sign onto the dreaded Obamacare bandwagon. Though that’s just a guess. I haven’t actually checked.
It’s not my intention to make light of influenza. It can be a very serious disease. There are very real hospitalizations; people do die from it; and if you have it, and you want help, you might want to check this out.
What I’m saying is that it’s media madness out there. It’s the wild, wild west. As New York Times columnist and national treasure Gail Collins writes: never have I seen so many people trying to open doorknobs with their elbows.
In fact, truth be told, I feel lucky. I suffer not from the flu at all — I think — but a mere head cold, minor in the scheme of things, sans fever or aches or fits of uncontrolled shivering. The only fits I’m having, I’ll admit, are of soft moaning. And they’re calculated to capture Sarah’s sympathy, as her sympathy is not otherwise very easily caught.*
But I am ambulatory — and armed with the proper decongestants, I am fit for the kitchen. Which means that I have been cooking away (dear readers!) for the sake of your health and mine.
This week’s experiment: chicken noodle soup.
How fitting it is. How soothing it is. I have no data at hand that suggests that chicken noodle soup does anything medical to fix your aches and fever, to soften your sinuses and soothe your sore throat. But I know that it does all these things. I know it’s true, because my mommy says so.
As it has been in so many households for so many years, chicken soup was my mother’s remedy for colds and flus when I was a child. I would come down with the sniffles — stay home from school — and she would dust off the big stock pot and start dicing carrots and celery and onions. She’d serve me cup after cup of steaming, salty broth. And sooner than not, I’d be back up on my feet.
The chicken noodle soup I have for you here is not her chicken soup. The soup of my youth was brothy, with just a few bits, here and there, of vegetable and meat.
This soup is chunky style. It wants lots of chicken, diced small for the pot. It wants lots of carrots and celery. It wants — like so many of my other recipes — a generous splash of Thai fish sauce, to ratchet up the umami of the thing.
This chicken soup may require a very quick trip to the grocery. Not everybody has chicken parts just laying around at home. But it has the great advantage of requiring minimal prep-work. And it’s the kind of recipe you could start while you’re feeling your least lousy, and that will be ready — with minimal supervision — by the time you need it the most.
Enjoy! (Or rather, should I say: feel better!)
12 Chicken Thighs (or 4-5 breasts, or a mixture)
2 cups Egg Noodles
8 cups Chicken Stock (homemade stock is best. But if you haven’t got it, you haven’t got it.)
5-8 cups Filtered Water
6 Carrots, cut into small chunks
6 Ribs of Celery, sliced
1 Onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced**
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp Dried Oregano
Pepper, fresh ground
Salt (and / or Thai Fish Sauce)
De-bone and skin the chicken parts, and cut the meat into smallish cubes. To an eight-quart stock pot, add the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and oregano. Add copious pepper, the chicken stock, and water enough to almost fill the pot. Then, over a medium flame, slowly bring the soup to a boil.
When it reaches boiling, you should notice a scum of particulate matter forming on the top. Skim it with a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to low. Add some salt (and — I would recommend — fish sauce). Then allow the soup to simmer for about an hour and a half.
At the end of that time, add additional salt and fish sauce to taste.
In a separate saucepan, cook the egg noodles until they are just barely al dente. Add about a half-cup of noodles to the bottom of your bowls, then ladle the soup on top, making sure to include equal proportions of liquid and solids.
Serve piping hot from the stove.
(Assuming that you follow my advice and cook the noodles separately, the soup will be better reheated the second day — and even better the third. Simply boil up some more noodles, and follow the serving directions above.)
* Sarah objects: I sympathize!
** My mother insists that parsley is the key to chicken soup’s restorative power. It’s its diuretic properties, she tells me. You drink and make water, drink and make water, until you’ve flushed all the bad stuff out.