The first time that I made a really good chicken soup (documented here), it felt like I’d translated an ancient Jewish text–the Dead Soup Scrolls–and that the resulting soup was irrefutable, everlasting, not-to-be-tampered with. Then, over time, I began to realize that the recipe, which is really just a formula for a very concentrated chicken stock, flavored with root vegetables, and freshened up with more vegetables and dill at the end, was really just that: a formula. A guideline. You could play around and the Jewish police wouldn’t arrest you. So, a few weeks ago, when I had the start of a pretty nasty cold, I decided to integrate some of the flavors that make ramen so curative when colds start to hit hard. And the results were tremendous indeed.
Start like this: in a Dutch Oven (or similarly-sized pot; remember, the bigger the pot, the more diluted your soup…but you don’t want it too small either) throw in half an onion, skin-on (it helps with color), some carrots, some celery, a bay leaf, and a few thick slices of ginger. You don’t have to peel that either. Oh and two peeled garlic cloves.
Now, take a chicken and cut it up. You should learn how to do this because it’ll be a skill you use over and over again. It’s not very hard but I’m at an airport now and really don’t have time to walk you through it. Place the cut-up chicken in the pot with the vegetables and cover everything with cold water. Throw in a few peppercorns and a pinch of salt.
Now turn up the heat, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Walk away. In about an hour or so, it’ll look like this:
Ugly right? But wait til you strain that broth and taste it. But first, take out the chicken–it should be falling off the bone at this point; if not, keep simmering–and let it cool until you can shred it with your hands. Also, lift out the vegetables until all that’s left is broth. Then turn up the heat, bring to an active boil, and concentrate that broth (I learned this from watching David Chang on Mind of a Chef). When it reduces a bit, taste it and correct for salt. Then set aside.
Meanwhile, chop up some fresh vegetables to finish your soup: carrots, and celery and–just for the heck of it–red pepper. Don’t yell at me, grandma. It just seemed right at the time. Oh and some more sliced ginger.
Also, when the chicken’s cool (West Side Story “cool”), tear it apart with your hands.
To finish, strain the broth into a pot (or into a bowl and return to the pot, like I did here), bring it back to a boil, taste for salt, add some egg noodles (as much as you want to eat right now; any more and it’ll soak up all the soup if you leave it overnight), and the vegetables and ginger and chicken.
Cook until the vegetables and noodles are cooked and then, here’s the crazy part: stir in some chile paste (I used Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce) and, just for fun, soy sauce. Yes soy sauce. I saw David Chang do it. It’s ok.
The resulting soup is punchy, refreshing, and oh-so-curative. Garnish with cilantro. Instagram it:
Maybe your rabbi will recoil, but everyone else: put away those tissues and make this soup. I guarantee you’ll feel better immediately.