Cook’s Corner: In cold and flu season, soup brings comfort, healing

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Getting through the holidays unscathed by sickness, I thought for sure I had missed catching a cold this winter season. I was wrong. First came the headache, then the dry throat, and finally the runny nose. The cold had caught me.

Meal planning and cooking dinner aren’t nearly as fun when I’m sick. Not to mention the lack of appetite. But, the rest of the family has got to eat and, frankly, so do I.

So, is it feed a fever and starve a cold? Or is it feed a cold and starve a fever? And is either one really a good idea? I’m all for natural remedies, but anything that involves starvation doesn’t seem very attractive to me.

Medical and scientific opinions differ on whether to feed or starve either ailment. But they all agree on one point: get plenty of fluids. I like that one website simply said, “drink, drink, drink.” Getting in lots of liquids is the important thing to do when sick.

Now you and I know that liquids can come in many forms. There’s water, of course, juice, coffee, tea, smoothies, and if we want to get really wacky, beer. But that’s probably not a wise thing to drink when you’re taking cold medicine. Or starving.

Another way to get your fluids is soup. Ahhh, soup. It’s warm, it’s comforting, and it’s liquid. The perfect sick person’s meal. Soup helps open sinuses, loosens mucus and clears congestion. No wonder it’s been called the “Jewish penicillin.” Across the centuries, Jewish mothers have fed their families with “liquid gold,” or chicken soup.

This week’s comforting recipe comes from food blogger Tori Avey’s website, toriavey.com. Although the total time from start to finish is about two hours, there’s not a lot to do while the soup simmers. Enjoy this soup and let’s all get better soon.

Jewish Penicillin aka Chicken Soup

Makes 3 quarts

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 lbs.

6 large carrots, peeled and sliced

6 celery stalks, peeled and sliced (including leaves)

1 onion, skin on, rinsed and sliced in two halves

Handful of fresh parsley

Handful of fresh dill

2 tsp black peppercorns

3 whole cloves, optional

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt

1/4 tsp saffron threads (optional – adds a rich yellow color to the broth)

Place the chicken into a large stock pot. Cover with 4 quarts of water. Bring water to a boil over medium high heat. Let the chicken boil for 10 to 15 minutes, skimming the foam and particles that rise to the surface of the water periodically, until most of the foam is gone.

Replenish the liquid that was removed during skimming with hot water (it’s usually around 1 to 2 cups). Do a final skimming to remove any leftover foam. Add the carrots, celery, onion, parsley, dill, peppercorns and cloves to the pot. Add 1 tbsp kosher salt to the water (if you’re salt sensitive or using a kosher salted bird, salt less). Bring back to a simmer.

Put the lid on the pot and vent it. Reduce heat to medium low so the soup is slowly simmering but not boiling. A rolling boil will make the stock cloudy, a slow simmer should do it. Let the soup cook for 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes of cooking, when the chicken is tender, turn off the heat. Use a pair of tongs to carefully pull the chicken from the broth. Put it on a plate. Taste the chicken broth and season with additional salt, if desired. Allow the chicken and the broth to cool.

Carefully strain the broth into another pot through a mesh strainer. Reserve the carrots and celery for later, if you wish; discard the spices, herbs, and onion halves. If you are adding the saffron for color, crush the threads into powder, then stir them into the broth. Pull the meat from the chicken in small pieces.

If you are cooking something in your broth, like matzo balls, bring the broth to a boil and cook them in the broth before adding back in the reserved vegetables and chicken pieces. Do a final tasting and adjust seasoning, adding more salt to taste if desired. Add the cooked vegetables and chicken pieces at the very end, for the last 1 to 2 minutes of cooking, until warmed through. Serve hot.

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