Chicken Soup for Chicken Soup Lovers: Several Tasty Variations

What is it about chicken soup? There is a series of inspirational books titled Chicken Soup for the Soul. John Steinbeck mentioned it in East of Eden. Moshe ben Mainmon, a twelfth-century Egyptian physician and philosopher, recognized it as a remedy for cold symptoms and his advice has been supported by a scientific study done at the University of Nebraska.

My resolution to cook simple food that tastes even better the next day — and the first verse of Chicken Soup with Rice, written by Maurice Sendak and set to music by Carole King — inspired me to make my favorite chicken soup even though it’s almost the end of February.

In January it’s so nice

While slipping on the sliding ice

To sip hot chicken soup with rice

Sipping once, sipping twice

Sipping chicken soup with rice.

Cooking chicken soup can be an all day affair but by beginning with chicken broth and a rotisserie chicken from the market, I had a full flavored, body-and-soul warming soup ready in less than an hour. Here’s how I did it:

Basic Chicken Soup

2 quarts chicken stock

1 quart water

1 rotisserie cooked chicken

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups onions, thinly sliced

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in thin rounds

3 medium stalks celery, cut in half inch slices

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

I combined the chicken stock and water in a large stockpot, put it on the stove over medium heat. I separated the meat from the bones and skin, shredded the meat and set it aside, and put the skin and bones into the simmering broth. After the bones and skin had simmered in the broth for 20 minutes, I used a colander to strain the broth into a large bowl and discarded the skin and bones.

I put the empty stockpot on medium heat and added the butter, sliced onions, carrot rounds, sliced celery, dried thyme and garlic. I sauteed the vegetables, stirring frequently, until they were soft, about 10 minutes, then added the broth and shredded chicken to the vegetables. After it had simmered for five minutes, I added salt and pepper and the chicken soup was ready to serve.

It only takes a few more minutes to make Chili Chicken Soup with Beans. Here’s how a few simple additions elevated basic soup to inspired soup:

Chili Chicken Soup with Beans, Basic Chicken Soup

3 Tablespoons chili powder

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

1 pound frozen corn

1 15 oz. can of black beans

1 15 oz. can of white beans (cannellini, white kidney or chickpeas), rinsed and drained

cilantro leaves and sour cream for garnish

I made the broth as in the above recipe, then added chili powder, cumin and jalapeno pepper to the carrot, celery, onion mixture. When I added the broth and chicken to the pot, I also added the tomatoes, corn and beans. I topped each serving with freshly chopped cilantro and a spoonful of sour cream.

Except for the extra time it took for the larger volume of soup to reach a simmer, and the opening of cans and rinsing of beans, I had enough soup for a couple of dinners and lunch for most of the week, in half an hour.

If you agree with Maurice Sendak and Carole King and want to sip chicken soup with rice, here’s how to make it:

Chicken Soup with Rice, Basic Chicken Soup

1 cup white rice, uncooked

2 additional cups of chicken broth

flat leaf parsley to garnish

Add the rice and additional broth when you add the broth and chicken to the vegetables and simmer the soup until the rice is tender. Top each serving with chopped, flat leaf parsley. If you use one and a half cups of cooked rice rather than uncooked rice, the soup will not need additional broth or cooking time.

Chicken soup appears in nearly every cuisine with additions that might include dumplings, noodles, tortillas, lemon juice, curry powder, coconut milk, star anise, eggs, vinegar, cheese or mushrooms. Perhaps, that’s what it is about chicken soup — It’s the “basic black dress” in a cook’s soup closet. The possibilities are endless, and it may even cure the common cold.

Carol Egbert lives in Quechee, where she paints and cooks. Her food blog can be found at http://www.carolegbert.com.