Chicken Soup for the Quarantined Soul

Friday, March 27, 2020



Done right, a bowl of homemade chicken soup is full of the ingredients that go a long way towards soothing the soul and boosting your immune system. Remember the Golden Anti-Inflammatory Drink from a few posts back? We're working with a few of the same ingredients, in a savory application. This is a simple chicken soup recipe  - not reinventing the wheel here - with the added benefits of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, herbs, and lemon. You can add cooked noodles or rice to it, but I suggest doing so to individual portions and not the whole pot. That way leftovers can be reheated without making the starches mushy. The broth is the most valuable part of any chicken soup, so I'd emphasize starting with homemade stock as a way to save time if you already have it. I've included alternate instructions otherwise. Usually, I'd make this with chicken thighs, but I was literally only able to grab drumsticks from a grocery order last week! It's up to you whether to leave the skin on your chicken or not. (You can save yourself from needing to skim a ton of fat if you pull it off first.)

If you're up to cooking while quarantined, you should definitely make a pot and enjoy a bowl or two today. Portion the remainder into freezer-safe containers, then freeze for the future. Getting sick at some point during this pandemic is starting to look inevitable, but one of the ways you can prepare is to stockpile some healthy soups in the freezer.

To see video instructions for this recipe, check out my Instagram highlights.



Here are some ingredient notes and substitutions:

Chicken - Use the best quality chicken parts you can get your hands on, ideally pasture-raised. Bone-in thighs, drumsticks, or leg quarters will yield the best results for tender meat that won't overcook. Wings won't yield much meat but they make a great broth if you're doctoring storebought chicken stock. A whole chicken is also fine in this case, you'll just need to pull the breast meat early to avoid it drying out. I don't recommend using all white meat for this recipe.

Chicken stock  - I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but to reap the full benefits of this soup, you'll either need to start with homemade chicken stock or follow the optional recipe steps to create a good stock as part of your soup process. If you have to substitute store-bought stock or a chicken base, buy something organic and low-sodium. In this case, blooming 2 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin and adding it to the soup can also improve its mouthfeel, similar to the way cartilage-rich chicken parts contribute collagen to a good stock. The caveat is to cook with gelatin derived from grass-fed animals if it's the nutritional benefits of collagen you're after.

Onions/Celery/Carrot - Frozen veggies are okay here if you don't have fresh. You'll want to have a bag of onions separate from the celery and carrots though, as they go into the pot at different times. You could substitute another root veggie for the carrots, like sweet potato. If the flavor of celery isn't your thing, skip it, but consider something else that has some crunch, like fennel or bell peppers.

Garlic - Use cloves from a whole bulb of garlic, or buy peeled cloves to reap the rewards of this superfood. The next best options are fresh garlic paste or jarred minced garlic. Garlic powder is more of a flavor substitute (a poor one at that) and pales in comparison to the nutritional benefits of fresh garlic.

Ginger - Fresh ginger root is best, a ginger puree would be a good substitute. Use ground ginger only if you enjoy the taste, otherwise omit. It's not devoid of health benefits but it definitely doesn't taste the same in soups.

Turmeric - This is a case where fresh or ground are okay to use for turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties. If substituting ground turmeric, use two teaspoons.

Black pepper - Black pepper isn't just for flavor here; it helps your body absorb the turmeric. Use a pepper grinder or mortar and pestle to pulverize black peppercorns. (That old canister of ground black pepper you've been saving since 2005 ain't it.) Fat also helps your body absorb turmeric, so adding a splash of coconut oil to your bowl of soup can work if you're opposed to cracked black pepper.

Cayenne - It doesn't just add some nice heat, it's also great for digestion, metabolism, and may even help clear up a stuffy nose. If you're cooking for those who are more sensitive to spicy foods, consider adding cayenne to individual servings rather than the whole pot. Crushed red pepper flakes make a good substitute.

Cinnamon - Don't worry, the flavor will not overpower your soup if you use a cinnamon stick. If you use cinnamon powder, do so sparingly. Cinnamon is good for antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and may improve some risk factors for heart disease. The best type to use is ceylon cinnamon.

Parsley - Fresh parsley aids digestion, helps with bloating and is high in Vitamins A, C, and K. Don't bother substituting dried parsley here. To get the fresh pop of flavor you could use dill, scallions, or chives instead at the end of the recipe.

Other herbs - Dried bay leaves will add depth of flavor, so that's what I would prioritize of the herbs. Adding a bundle of fresh thyme and/or rosemary will also work with the flavor profile of the soup. It's not necessary to substitute with dried herbs unless you want the flavor.

Olive oil - No need to use your fancy finishing oil, just an every day extra-virgin olive oil. Ghee, avocado oil, or coconut oil are other healthy fats that make good substitutes. Any cooking oil or butter will do the job if you're out of all other options.

Lemon - Acidity is always a good idea to wake up flavors. You can substitute lime, a splash of apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar instead. I'm not personally crazy about the flavor of bottled lemon juice for cooking.


Chicken Soup for the Quarantined Soul

Ingredients:
5 lbs bone-in chicken thighs, drumsticks, or whole chicken (cut up)
1 TBSP Kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 TBSP minced fresh ginger
2 TBSP minced fresh turmeric or 2 tsp ground turmeric
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water, or additional chicken stock
2 dried bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Small bunch of fresh Italian parsley, divided
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, optional
A sprig of fresh rosemary, optional
2 celery ribs, sliced
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
1/2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, or to taste
1 lemon

**See notes in the recipe introduction above for substitutions.**

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1.5 - 2.5 hours
Yield: Makes about 3 quarts
Recommended equipment (affiliate links): Zester, Dutch oven or other large pot, cooking twine, tongs, wooden mixing spoon, large fine mesh sieve, deli containers or other freezer-safe food storage

A zester makes easy work of grating things like garlic, turmeric, and lemon zest. Ginger is easier if frozen first!

Recipe steps:
  1. Pull the skin off the chicken parts, optionally. Season with 1 tablespoon of salt and set aside.
  2. Pour olive oil into a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the diced onion until translucent, then add the garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Cook for another minute until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the stock, scraping up any browned bits in the pot. Add the water or additional stock as well.
  4. Throw in the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Tie half of the parsley and any additional herbs with cooking twine before adding to the pot. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer on low. Place all the chicken parts in the broth. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar.
  5. Cook until meat is just shy of falling off the bones; about 45 minutes to an hour. If you used any breast meat, you'll want to pull that out early - use a thermometer to check when the breasts register 150°F.  Set all cooked chicken parts aside to cool; pull off the meat once cool enough to handle. 
  6. Freeze the bones for stock, or see below for an optional step to take now.
  7. (OPTIONAL STEP TO ENRICH BROTH) - If you didn't start with homemade stock, return the bones to the broth. Cover the pot and continue simmering for another hour, then remove the bones. You can still freeze these for future stock.
  8. Remove and discard the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and herb bundle. If desired, strain the broth before continuing, then return it to the pot. Return the broth to a low simmer, then add the celery and carrots. Cook just until the carrots are tender.
  9. Season the broth to taste with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. 
  10. Fold in the pulled chicken meat. Finish with roughly chopped parsley, lemon zest, and a hefty squeeze of lemon juice.
  11. Serve hot. Add cooked noodles or rice to individual serving bowls, if desired.

Step-by-step photo gallery:
Pull the skin off the chicken parts, optionally. Season with 1 tablespoon of salt and set aside.


Pour olive oil into a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the diced onion until translucent, then add the garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Cook for another minute until fragrant.


Pour in the stock, scraping up any browned bits in the pot. Add the water or additional stock as well. 


Toss in the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Tie half of the parsley and any additional herbs with cooking twine before adding to the pot. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer on low. Place all the chicken parts in the broth. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar.


Cook until meat is just shy of falling off the bones; about 45 minutes to an hour. If you used any breast meat, you'll want to pull that out early - use a thermometer to check when the breasts register 150°F.  Set all cooked chicken parts aside to cool; pull off the meat once cool enough to handle. 


Freeze the bones for stock, or see below for an optional step to take now. (I also freeze all my veggie scraps from prep.)

(OPTIONAL STEP TO ENRICH BROTH) - If you didn't start with homemade stock, return the bones to the broth. Cover the pot and continue simmering for another hour, then remove the bones.


Remove and discard the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and herb bundle. If desired, strain the broth before continuing. (This gets rid of the onions/garlic/ginger/turmeric, which has done its job. You could also blend the broth for a creamier consistency.) 

Return the broth to a low simmer, then add the celery and carrots. Season the broth to taste with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Cook just until the carrots are tender.


Fold in the pulled chicken meat. Finish with roughly chopped parsley, lemon zest, and a hefty squeeze of lemon juice.


Serve hot. Add cooked noodles or rice to individual serving bowls, if desired.



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1 comments

  1. This is delicious! Ginger and cinnamon are especially nice additions to the traditional chicken soup recipe. So good

    ReplyDelete