Every once in a while I get an email asking me to cook for someone who’s going through a really tough time, maybe a death in the family or a long illness. I usually do cook, even if it’s for someone I don’t know well or that I’ve never met. I do it because it’s the right thing to do and because it makes me feel connected. When things get rough, keyboards click, sign-up lists are formed and everyone comes together to do what needs to get done. It’s powerful and wonderful. It’s good to be part of a solution.
The majority of life’s challenges aren’t so obvious. Garden variety problems annoy and slow us down, but they don’t turn our worlds upside down. While being there and pitching in when things have really gotten tough is what community and friendship are all about, there are also times when reaching out to a good friend who just has a cold they can’t shake can make all the difference. When something not-so-serious strikes, we tend to try to ignore it and press on as if nothing’s wrong, rarely pausing to rest or eat something restorative. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, a little kindness goes a long way. The next time you notice your BFF trying to just keep on keeping on, take things to another level. Surprise them with a pot of this healing chicken soup. Fortified with herbs, aromatics and chilies, it’s rich and warming and as grandmas around the world will attest, it will probably make them feel better. Knock on the door with a warm pot in your hands and turn a hard day into a nice night. Everybody needs a little encouragement sometimes.
Fortify the base
- 1 quart chicken stock (preferably homemade but the box will do)
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
- 1 large celery stick, peeled and cut into thirds
- 2 scallions, trimmed
- 3 stems cilantro
- 3 mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 5 peppercorns
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- ½” piece of ginger, about the circumference of a quarter, peeled and sliced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 jalapeño, split down the middle (optional for heat)
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Place everything in a deep sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and steep for at least an hour.
- To serve, strain soup base and then bring back to a boil. Add garnishes and more salt if desired and cook for a minute until the vegetables have softened a bit.
Fancy it up
Here is a list of foods to use as garnishes. Cutting counts here so take your time and make them pretty. Mix and match however you want - they all taste great.
thinly sliced mushrooms
curls of carrots made with a vegetable peeler
circles of thinly sliced bell pepper, red, green, yellow, orange or a combo
scallion greens thinly sliced on the bias
thin slices of fresh chile peppers, jalapeno (hot), poblano (medium) or shishito (mild)
cooked rice (use your leftovers) or small noodles
shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie or roasted)
a handful of baby spinach leaves
To add extra nourishment and flavor to the soup base throw in some chicken bones. We hoard them in the freezer so they are ready to go, roasted or raw. Put in as many that will fit or as few as you have saved up. A little goes a long way.