Favorite Chicken Soup

Well I guess you can tell it’s fall when the cool-weather sniffles set in. Both SM and I have been trading colds for the past two weeks. No H1N1 or anything, just your garden variety congestion, sore throat, and that overall feeling of being hit by a bus. It’s put a cramp on the kitchen though – not much tastes good when you still have the distinctive taste of Nyquil and Ricola Honey Lemon throat drops in your mouth. (And hence the lack of blah-blah-blogging on my part. But I’m back!)

Having grown up on the farm, the “work-it-off” mentality runs pretty deep in my family. I’m fairly certain that my Dad staved off Ebola more than once just by gargling salt water a few times a day. I don’t remember staying home from school sick a ton, but I think that had less to do with whether or not we were sick and more to do with SUE!’s rule that staying home meant no extra-curricular activities. It’s amazing how quickly my sniffles would disappear if I had a riding lesson scheduled for that afternoon. But when we were convincing enough to earn a sick day home from school, it was filled with watching Price is Right in bed, and Dad coming in from the barn especially to check on you and bring you a big bowl of SUE!’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

There’s something to chicken soup. It must have medicinal powers. I instantly feel better after eating it, even if I’m not under the weather. And I truly believe that taking a sick friend a batch of chicken soup and a nice loaf of fresh bread gets you points with the illness gods – it’s instant good-health karma.

So since I can’t make all of you a batch of soup when you get sick, here’s the the next best thing: my favorite recipe. This recipe is optimized for quick and easy cooking. If you can, use some of that delicious chicken stock you just made (hint hint). If not, use the best chicken stock you can find. You do want it to taste like chicken soup after all!

Unfortunately, this is another recipe that I sorta wing, so you’ll have to use this as a base recipe and season to your own taste. (Make sure to have a healthy mouth do the tasting and seasoning – it’s pretty easy to end up with a WAY-over seasoned pot of soup if you trust your cold-medicine-impaired taste buds.) Additionally, depending on the salt content of your chicken stock, canned tomatoes, and even chicken (if it was brined, or “plumped” as the advertising folks are calling it these days), the taste of your soup can differ significantly batch-to-batch. So taste, taste, taste and season as you go.

Fortunately, I’ve been pretty diligent about eating lots of chicken soup, gargling, and neti pot-ing, and I’m starting to feel better. And the good news is that when my taste buds do recover, they are going to get quite a workout making up for lost time! Enjoy!

Favorite Chicken Soup

Click here to print this recipe.
Yields about 6 cups
Time: 30+ minutes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 stalk celery, shredded
32 ounces chicken stock (recipe here)
15 ounces diced tomatoes
1 – 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup orzo or other small pasta

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat, add the onion, carrot and celery. Season with a generous pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened – about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, tomatoes, chicken, and herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer at least 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings (including the herbs) as is necessary.

Add the pasta, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Serve immediately.

This soup is great without the pasta. Feel free to omit it for better freezing (the pasta will get a little mushy when thawed), or to make the recipe paleo-friendly or gluten free.

This soup reheats wonderfully, however the pasta does get a little mushy. To avoid, separate out the amount of soup you plan to eat immediately, and add the appropriate amount of pasta and simmer until done. When reheating the soup the next time, add (dried) pasta to the soup then. This works well if you’d prefer to freeze half the batch.

Simmering times here are the minimum. The soup tastes best after simmering for a good half hour or so before adding the pasta. Don’t simmer for too long with the pasta though, it will start to lose texture.

You can use whatever chicken you like for this recipe. Poach a skinless, boneless breast in some stock and shred it with two forks, or chop up the leftovers from last night’s rotisserie chicken. I prefer the texture of shredded chicken, but feel free to cut into the shape and size of your liking.

I stick the carrots and celery in the food processor, which yields a more complex broth flavor. However, you don’t experience distinct bites of carrot or celery as in many other chicken soups. If you prefer, chop the vegetables instead of grating.

This is one of those recipes where the soup will only be as good as the stock you use. So if you don’t have home made stock, opt for a high quality store bought carton. My two favorites are Swanson’s Chicken Cooking Stock (it’s a newer product in the funky shaped carton, NOT Swanson’s Chicken Broth), and Kitchen Basics Natural Chicken Stock.

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