FOR YEARS my older son played baseball and we were loyal fans even when the weather challenged that loyalty. The “spring“ season starts when it’s still cold enough for parkas in the stands and hot chocolate is the bestseller at the snack bar. When the games ended, we would rush home to thaw and eat. My antidote to the conditions: chicken soup.
Yes, this is one trick I got from my grandma and all the grandmas before her. Nana made her own soup and I like to make my own as well. I could describe the process and tell you how easy it is, but I’ll skip it. If you make your own soup (soup, broth or stock—there’s really no difference), good for you. Make the soup, cool it, freeze in serving-size containers and defrost as needed.
If you don’t make your own, I have quick trick for improving store-bought broth. In a medium-size pot place a few bone-in chicken thighs, some chopped carrots and celery, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Cover these with a low- or no-sodium prepared chicken broth. Bring the broth to a slow simmer and let the chicken thighs cook for 25 to 30 minutes until cooked through. Remove the thighs, pull the meat off the bones and add the meat back to the pot. There you go, 30-minute (or so) soup.
Even if you’ve made your own broth, you may want to cook the chicken thighs in your broth so you have some chicken meat to add. Once you have the soup base, with the chicken or not, you can start making it your own. Here are a few suggestions to take your soup to full meal status:
- Spiced Chickpea, Spinach and Rice Chicken Soup: Sauté diced onions with a generous pinch of curry powder, garam masala or cumin. Add already-cooked chickpeas and let everything cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the prepared chicken soup along with some cooked rice and a generous handful of baby spinach. Bring the broth to a simmer, taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Gingered Chinese Cabbage and Mushroom Chicken Soup With Noodles: When you add the chicken thighs to the broth to cook, also add some quarter-sized slices of peeled fresh ginger. While the chicken cooks, cook some fine egg noodles or ramen-style noodles. Rinse the cooked noodles with cold water and set aside. In a pan, sauté sliced scallions, sliced mushrooms and thinly sliced Chinese cabbage or bok choy until the vegetables are just tender. When the broth and chicken are ready, remove the ginger slices and discard, shred the chicken and return it to the soup. Add the cooked vegetables and noodles. Finish with soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.
And the classic…
- Matzo Ball Soup: Family fave here, and not just my family. I confess that I use the boxed mix for my matzo balls. It produces perfect matzo balls every time plus it is so easy. Make the mix early in the day and refrigerate until ready to cook. Right before boiling, use a cookie scoop to portion out the mix, rolling each portion to get a nice round shape. While the matzo balls are cooking, prepare fine egg noodles. Add a few matzo balls and some egg noodle to large soup bowls or pasta bowls. Pour the soup over them and serve. Chopped parsley, optional.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
LittleBird “Stephanie Cooks” is a professional chef, but she’s a quick-and-dirty home cook too. Check out her dinner ideas here every Monday.