It's bound to happen. Every year, the temperature drops significantly over night, and then one of us gets a cold. Blech. Everybody knows that home made chicken soup makes you feel better when you're sick, even if it's only helping you mentally. If you've got some kind of full-time commitment like work or school (or screaming children), you may think that making a pot of chicken soup from scratch is an impossibility given your super-busy schedule. WRONG, IDIOT. JEEZ. DON'T YOU KNOW ANYTHING? Um, I'm kidding, but seriously, I've learned along the way how to cut some serious chicken-souping corners and still come out with a huge pot of something that tastes just as good as chicken soup from complete scratch.
I'm not dissing soup from scratch. In fact, I love it. My mom used to make us her Bubby's chicken soup recipe at least once a year, and it smelled amazing all day. I haven't been brave enough to ask for the recipe, but it's on the to-do list, along with my mom's brisket and my grandma's matzah balls (which always taste better than the ones I make.) What I love about the forthcoming recipe is that I can get home really late, throw everything on the stove, and still have dinner ready at a reasonable hour without too much fuss. This holds even if I'm the one who isn't feeling so great.
I first learned this shortcut secondhand by reading the Amateur Gourmet's blog several years ago, and he apparently learned it from a recipe on epicurious, which in actuality was from a 1998 issue of Bon Appétit Magazine (what a tangled web of passed-down information!) The short-cut here is that you boil your fresh chicken in pre-made broth. It sounds like a food abomination, but dear lord is it delicious. Plus, making the chicken stock, the part of making soup from scratch that usually takes forever, is cut down to 20 to 30 minutes and you come out with a very rich broth.
This recipe, like any soup recipe, is very easily customizable to your own tastes. However, if it's starting to get late and somebody isn't feeling well, short-cuts are your best friend. If chicken anatomy and the prospect of undoing it are not something you're really comfortable with, you can actually buy a whole chicken cut up into 8 pieces at your grocery store nowadays. And just like in the last recipe I posted, I opted for a package of fresh soup greens to fill my soup's vegetable quota.
Sick-Day Chicken Soup
A 3-4 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces (breasts, thighs, wings, and legs)
4 32oz cartons of chicken broth (16 cups)
One package of soup greens, or the following vegetables:
-one parsnip, peeled and diced
-two large carrots, peeled and diced
-the white part of one leek, cleaned carefully and diced
-one turnip, diced
-a few hearts of celery, diced
-one small onion, quartered
-a few sprigs of parsley and dill, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup of rice or small pasta
salt and pepper
Pour the chicken broth into a large stock pot. Add the chicken pieces and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the soup down to a simmer, and with the cover partially off, simmer for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. If you're not sure if your chicken is cooked, test a piece with a cooking thermometer.
Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Skim any fat off the top of the soup and discard. Add the vegetables and rice or pasta. For rice, let the soup simmer for about 20 more minutes, and for pasta, follow the amount of time on the box. When the soup is almost done, add back some shredded or chopped chicken meat from the chicken you set aside (maybe a cup or so). Test to make sure your vegetables and rice/pasta are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Note: You'll have a lot of leftover cooked chicken from this recipe. It's pretty bland to eat on its own, since you boiled a lot of the flavor out of it. I almost always end up making chicken salad with it the next day. I've been using a recipe almost identical to this one forever, and it makes awesome use of all of that chicken.