Medicinal Chicken Soup

by Danielle Charles

This weekend I finally succumbed to the latest cold going around, which has been plaguing me all week with that icky pre-sick feeling one gets deep in their throat. I thought I had conquered it after several days of regimental echinacea doses and religious avoidance of sugar. But after walking around all day Friday in the freezing wind with no hat,  plus an indulgent lunch at my favorite Montpelier restaurant (Kismet) followed by an even more indulgent desert, I startled sniffling and sneezing.  By the next morning, I was done for.

I wandered around the house most of the morning in my pajamas with a tissue box in near proximity at all times, trying to muster up enough energy and wit to be semi-functioning and get some work done. I finally gave up on that idea, and decided to brave the world and go to the farmer’s market in search of a chicken. Mission: Make Chicken Soup. I bundled up in a ridiculous amount of layers and headed out.

I procured the said bird, fighting through cues of tourists with cameras and Whole Foods bags, and even managed to get some carrots and parsnips. It was COLD, and windy, so I felt like quite the adventurer, suffering great hardships to seek out the secret ingredients for my life-saving medicine.

Now, the greatest thing about this soup is that it is extremely low maintenance. You don’t really have to chop anything if you don’t feel like it:  just put everything in the pot, put the lid on, and let it simmer happily away while you cozy up on the couch to watch re-runs of Seinfeld and sip tea. And, as well as nourishing vegetables and spices, you can throw all manner of medicinal roots, fungi and herbs to simmer in the delicious broth and infuse it with their medicine. This is the one pot stop – a nourishing meal and a medicinal decoction all in one with barely any effort.

Here’s what you might add to your pot:

  • 1 organic, free-range chicken
  • Onion family members: garlic, leeks, onions, shallots
  • Carrot family members: celery, fennel, parsnips, carrots
  • Root vegetables of choice: potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, etc
  • Squash
  • Greens: spinach, cabbage, kale, collards, etc. (add at the very end of the cooking time)
  • Medicinal mushrooms: shiitake, oyster mushrooms, maitake, etc
  • Immune tonifying herbs: astragalus, codonopsis, american ginseng, burdock root
  • Herbs and Spices: parsley, cilantro, thyme, rosemary, oregano, ginger, cayenne, etc

Simply heat a little olive oil in a big stock pot, add your vegetables and sauté for a few minutes, then place the chicken in the pan with enough water to cover well (about 14 cups), and let the pot simmer away. Typically the soup will take about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of your chicken. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan and let cool. Use a fork to shred the meat off of the bone and add it back to the soup.Once everything is seasoned to your liking,  ladle a good selection of veggies and chicken into a large bowl (or mug with a handle), and a good serving of broth.

There is really nothing like a good homemade chicken soup for when you feel under the weather, it’ll have you feeling right as rain in no time at all. After two days on chicken soup, I’m feeling nearly back to myself. Of course, you don’t have to be sick to make this soup: you can eat it when you’re well and it’ll turn you into a super-human…