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Restorative Chicken Soup

The holidays can make even the most spirited among us weary, and this Christmas was no exception.  My brother, who inevitably stirs up a whole host of family issues whenever he comes North, was visiting with his adorable one-year-old son, his lovely and long-suffering fiancée, and an unneutered male boxer, which brought the holiday dog total to 5 (and the family redneck factor up to 10). My sister, who DETESTS interlopers, invited her sister-in-law (a wonderful lady, by the way), who in turn invited her ex-boyfriend. Awesome.

Now this alone could potentially make for an intense holiday.  But that’s not how we roll on Christmas.  My sister, 19 weeks pregnant, had a scare that landed us in hospital around 2pm Christmas day.  Thankfully everything checked out fine and we got home just in time to put two beef tenderloins in the oven, mash some potatoes and eat at a reasonable hour.  But just moments before dinner, my brother’s boxer and my sister’s golden retriever got into a vicious scrap over a cheese wrapper (yes, a cheese wrapper).  My brother, never one to be out done in the drama department, decided to intervene and ended up with a deep puncture wound to the hand.  My mother, a nurse, was able to sufficiently bandage his hand til morning when he got it stitched up (thanks, Dr. B!), thus avoiding a second Christmas visit to the ER. Go Mom.

When Matt and I returned home, we were mentally wounded, and I determined that some serious medicinal chicken soup was in order.  This version contains ginger, garlic and hot chile – just the sorts of things that make you feel better when you’re feeling icky.

1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs)

1 carrot, halved

1 onion, unpeeled and cut in half

3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half

1 hot chile (a jalapeño works just fine)

1 cinnamon stick

3 whole star anise

1 three-inch piece of peeled ginger

2 tbsp cilantro stems

Juice of one lime mixed with the juice of 1 tangerine

Salt and pepper to taste

Whatever type of noodle you prefer – I used udon (think I may use ramen next time), enough for 4-6 bowls of soup

For Serving:

Scallions, finely sliced

Chopped cilantro

Lime wedges

Sambal Oelek (chili paste)

A drizzle of sesame oil

  • Put the chicken, carrot, onion, garlic, chile, cinnamon stick, anise, ginger and cilantro stems into a large saucepan.
  • Pour in water until the there’s about 2 inches above the chicken, stir in the salt and add in the citrus juice.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.  Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Remove the breast meat from the bird (you can remove the dark meat, too, but I’m not wild about dark meat in my soup), chop it into bite-sized pieces and save for later.  Return the chicken bones to the pot.  Simmer for another hour or so until the broth has a rich chicken flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Strain the soup and allow to cool, and when cold, chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to allow the fat the rise to the surface, so it becomes a solid layer you can easily remove.
  • Re-heat the broth, adding in the reserved chicken meat and cook your pasta of choice in a separate pot.
  • When ready to serve, divide the noodles among the bowls, sprinkle in the chopped cilantro and sliced scallions and pour in the hot aromatic broth.  Top off with a dab of sambal oelek, a drizzle of sesame oil and a squeeze of lime, if you like.

Make 4 -6 bowls of sanity and well-being.

Along with soup, I served a quick chopped salad of radicchio, fennel, daikon radish, scallions, cilantro and clementine with a lime-olive oil vinaigrette.

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