Sunday, July 17, 2011

This is what I eat when I'm sick

While I wait for you to figure out what I eat when I am sick, I am going to leave you guessing until I announce the winner(s) of my first ever contest.  Since there were only two real responses and they were both so darn good, they both win.  Congratulations!  Now all you have to do is email me (hochberg@rogers.com) your address and I will get your prize off to you in a jiffy.

So now, without further delay, were you able to guess what I eat when I'm sick?

Well, if you guessed (drumroll…) chicken soup, you would be wrong.  No, that is not a typo.  I really don't eat chicken soup when I am sick.  But everyone else in my family does, as does most of the rest of the Western world.  

When I'm sick, I like Orzo with tomato sauce or Toast with butter and honey.  And a little tea.  And that's it.

So why am I writing about chicken soup when (a) I don't eat it when I'm sick and (b) I'm not currently sick nor have I been any time recently?

Two reasons:
1.  I truly make the best, most kick-ass chicken soup around.  Its true!  I even wrote a book about it!
2.  My husband was sick this week (and by sick I mean a tad under the weather because of a vaccination for our upcoming trip to Thailand.  Baby.) and requested that I make him my chicken soup.

While I slaved for hours over the hot stove, I started thinking about chicken soup and how special it is.  I came to this conclusion:  Chicken soup is the most personal food you can make.  It really is.  Think about it: everyone insists that their grandma's (or bubby's or Nana's or mommy's) chicken soup is the best. I personally know married couples who have fought and almost divorced over this (not really, but I bet it was a contributing factor…).  

Personally, while I love my soup (which is a version of my mom's soup and hers was a version of her mom's soups), I really don't like any other chicken soup…no matter who makes it. I feel bad when I go to other people's houses and they rave about the "famous" soup I will soon be consuming.  I choke it down to be polite, all the while thinking, "why am I eating this dishwater when I could be eating my own delicious soup?"

So why am I writing about making chicken soup in the middle of the summer when temperatures have been in the 30's for days and not a drop of rain has fallen?  Because eating chicken soup is not about having a hot bowl of soup, it is about having a warm bowl of love.  And that tastes good in any season.

This is MY recipe for MY soup.  Even if you follow it exactly it will not taste the same as mine.  But that's ok.  Because it will taste like your soup.  And your family will love it.

Warning: this recipe is time consuming but so worth it.  Give yourself about 4 hours of total cooking time.  But don't worry; it'll make enough to freeze for future chicken soup emergencies.

My (and soon to be your) Famous Chicken Soup

Wanna make this soup?  Its as easy as 1-2-3.  Sort of…
1. The Chicken: put 2 skinless, bone-in full chicken legs (that means the thigh too) in a large stock pot along with a whole bunch of chicken bones.  Ask your butcher for these.  You can get them for super-cheap and they add an insane amount of flavour vs. regular pieces of raw bone-in chicken. Fill the pot almost to the top with COLD water.  Then SLOWLY bring it to a boil.  Keep an eye on it the whole time.  As soon as the shmutz (that is yiddish for yukky stuff) and foam start floating to the top, skim it off with a spoon.  When it finally comes to a boil, a ton of gross shmutz and foam should come to the surface.  Make sure you skim it all off.  Then (and this step is a pain in the rear but so important so don't skip it) take the chicken and bones out of the soup, rinse them off and then put them aside.  Then pour your almost-broth through a few layers of cheese cloth into a clean stock pot.  If you don't have two stock pots (who does) strain it into as many smaller pots as necessary.  Clean out your stock pot and return the broth and chicken and bones back into it, along with….
2. The vegetables & spices: Add one whole onion (just remove the papery outer layers), a few chopped carrots, a couple stalks celery, & one peeled and chunked good-size parsnip to the broth along with a spice packet containing dill, bay leaves, parsley, and pepper corns, and whatever your "secret ingredient" is, along with about a big tsp of salt.  
Simmer over a very low heat for about an hour.  Remove the chicken legs but leave the bones and simmer for another hour or two. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred about 1/2  a cup to add to the soup when serving and use the rest for chicken salad or whatever else you like to do with boiled chicken.  In the final 1/2 hour, make…

3.  The matzoh ball.  This is the easiest step.  I promise.  Buy a box of matzoh ball mix and follow the instructions.  Don't be a hero.  The nice people at Manischewitz (the brand I favour) have done all the measuring for you so just say a silent thank you

And remember, you don't have to have matzoh balls.  You could use noodles instead, or go crazy and have nothing at all!

That's it!  Your done!  Sort of…

After 20 minutes of the matzoh balls boiling in the soup, remove the bones and spice pack and taste.  Add more salt, pepper, and (lean in…this is my secret ingredient) a bit of powdered chicken stock, if its not flavourful enough for you.  This is not cheating, BTW.  When it tastes this good, who cares if its not 100% "homemade".  It's like, 90% homemade and that's good enough for me.

Garnish with a sprig of parsley and dill.  Or not.  Enjoy!

PS.  When it has cooled completely and you go to freeze it, don't freeze the matzoh balls.  They are mushy and nasty when they defrost.

PPS. If you have any questions about the spice pack or matzoh balls or anything else, just let me know!

Now that I've told you about my chicken soup, tell me about your; what makes your soup so special?


  1. Hi Cayla,

    Awesome post, loved it, totally agree. Now, what is the spice pack???

  2. Jody, the spice pack is fresh herbs (I use parsley, dill, sage, black peppercorns and a couple bay leaves) that you put into a squar, approx. 6cm x 6cm of cheesecloth and then tie up with a bit of butcher's twine (sting) That way, the herbs flavour your soup but you still get a nice, clear broth at the end; the sign of a good soup.
    Does that help?