While many of you are resolving to have more salads, more vegetables, less fat, less sugar, less caffeine, more water, more exercise, more sleep, less fried stuff, more of the raw and the crunchy, and so on, here in the Sassy Radish household, we’re resolving to beat the flu—Andrew’s flu to be exact. And aside from the usual suspects of the famed BRAT diet (bananas-rice-applesauce-toast), we’re elbow deep in good chicken stock. Which we use for our fifteen minute version of the best chicken soup to eat when you’re sick. Which, for all of you, I hope is never. Still, having this on hand, should you ever need it, will make your life better, I think. Plus, I hear the flu is brutal this year, and if Andrew is any indication—it is, so here goes.
The problem with having homemade chicken soup when you get sick, in my opinion, is that by the time you actually do get sick and actually need said chicken soup, you might be out of luck. Who is to make it for you if you’re the one convalescing in bed? Who has the strength to spend hours and hours simmering stock? You might be in luck; someone in your household: a roommate, a significant other, a spouse— might be a cook. But what if you live by yourself? What if your cohabitants, like my husband, are of the non-cooking proclivity? What then?
True, that in New York, decent chicken soup is but a phone call away. If you’re lucky, it’ll come with a matzo ball or two, resplendent with freshly added noodles and coins of bright orange carrots. But outside of the city, or any metropolis with decent delivery options, chicken soup, for when you’re sick, becomes not much more but a pipedream. I’m not knocking down canned chicken soup—in a pinch it’ll do, but it doesn’t seem to have the same healing properties of the homemade kind. How ironic that something you might need the most, is least attainable when you need it the most?
I am nothing if not prepared: For such calamities, I have an emergency chicken stock stash. I replace it every few months (health codes dictate stock can be frozen for only three months, but I’ve kept mine a wee longer and so far, I can happily report that no one has died or had food poisoning) to keep the stash new, but there is always two quarts of stock in my freezer labeled “Emergency Chicken Stock” with the date it was made, meaning, I am not to use it for anything but if anyone gets sick. That way, if that sick person is me, I can easily pull together a ready-made soup in about fifteen minutes.
What I do with the stock is the following: I take out my container (usually a quart) from the freezer and run it under hot water for a few minutes. It then becomes unglued from the walls of its home and easily slides out of the container into a pot. I place the pot on my stovetop over medium heat and cover the ice block while it melts. Meanwhile, I measure out two to three tablespoons of white rice and set it aside. I peel and chop two medium carrots. I squeeze out one lemon and I measure out one to two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger (I tend to grate a large hunk of it every few days and use it for hot water with lemon and ginger, cooking, and so on, so it’s easily within my reach – I hate peeling and chopping a tiny piece of ginger!). I break an egg into a small bowl and lightly beat it with a fork.
As soon as my mise-en-place is done (it takes about five minutes to put together), I add my rice, carrots, lemon juice, and ginger to the soup. When the broth comes to a boil, I reduce the heat to a calm simmer and let the rice cook in the broth for about ten minutes. I taste a few grains of rice and a carrot slice to make sure both are tender—usually they are. With the heat on the lowest setting possible, whisk in hand, I slowly add the beaten egg, while whisking the soup, and then immediately remove it from heat and ladle it into bowls.
And that’s it. In fifteen minutes, you have a comforting bowl of soup in your hands. You’re on your way to “better” – how fantastic is that? Best part, even if you’re too sick to make this for yourself, if you have all the building blocks, stock being the most important, you can ask your roommate/significant-other/spouse to whip it up for you in no time.
There—I might have not offered you any New Year’s resolutions, but at least I might have solved a bit of a conundrum for you at least when it comes to chicken soup. I hope that I, at least, made 2013 a little bit better. That’s enough for me.
P.S. I’m sorry for less than stellar pictures. Getting the pictures right wasn’t really on my mind this week while I was playing nurse. Still, this soup is really a great asset to have in your recipe pile – forgive me for the visual blunder.
Quick Chicken Soup
The stock is either my frugal use-all-you-got stock cobbled together from odds and ends of things and carcasses of already-roasted chicken (I am unwilling to part with food unless I can squeeze every last bit of usefulness out of them), or chicken-wings-and-backs stock that I make whenever I spend long stretches of time at home puttering around. In the colder months, that time is plentiful, so the stock is a frequent mainstay on our stovetop. Sometimes, I can get chicken backs from my butcher for next to nothing. Most of the time, I stash them away in the freezer when I’m spatchcocking a chicken. The process for both stocks is the same, except for the state of the chicken parts when you start out. There’s usually more scum with the raw chicken than with the roasted carcass. I’ve started to season my stock with enough salt to really taste the flavors of it. I like the seasoned stock more. You can leave yours salt-free.
Once the stock is made, it is strained, cooled, and divided among containers: either pint or quart-sized ones, depending on what containers are around. Then, I freeze the stock and wait. Lucky for us, we don’t get sick frequently, but it’s still nice to have around just in case.
One reason I like having stock without chicken meat on hand is because when I’m sick, pieces of chicken, floating in my soup, are less than exciting. I’d rather have the broth, infused with ginger and lemon—it feels so much more restorative to me. If you’re quite down with the flu and should avoid protein, skip the egg, but if you can hold it down, I think it makes for a filling, nourishing, and gentle meal.
1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade (I can’t tell you enough how much better, and better for you) the stock will be)
2 to 3 tablespoons white rice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into coins
Juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
1 to 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger (or to taste)
Kosher salt (if you need to season your stock) to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten, optional
Place the stock to a medium pot and set it over medium heat. Add the rice, carrots, lemon juice, and ginger and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat until the soup comes to a calm simmer and let the rice and carrots cook in the broth both are tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting available (if you haven’t already) and whisk in the egg. Immediately remove the soup from heat and ladle into bowls.