Monday, September 22, 2008

Chicken soup for the rhinovirus-ridden

It’s totally and completely sad (well, a little sad) that I, at almost 30 years old, call my mother for sympathy every time I get sick. I just have to. I feel like my Mom validates my illness, somehow. Until my Mom feels sorry for me, I am just whiny and annoying. After she tells me “Ooooohhh, you poor thing…,” all of a sudden I am sick, a patient in need of care and attention, completely justified in my whimpers and whines and validated in my illness.

So, if you haven't guessed, I have a cold (or a rhinovirus infection, as we science geeks like to refer to it). I spent the weekend in abject misery, swallowing handfuls of decongestants, which are worth less than their candy coating, as far as my sinuses are concerned. I was preparing myself for a slow and painful death by starvation and neglect (I get dramatic when I am sick) when the man-friend (did we decide to call him the Texan? Yes, let’s shall) swept in with bags of groceries, all set to make me chicken soup. All together now: Aaaawwww.

The soup he made,
from America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, may have saved both my life and my mother from 10 more whiny phone calls. The soup was absurdly complex, beginning with a most peculiar recipe for chicken stock.

The recipe starts with a butt ton (technical term here, people) of chicken drumsticks (bones cracked with a cleaver for maximal flavor extraction) which one browns on all sides, in batches in a Dutch oven. The chicken is then allowed to sweat until it releases juices, a step which the cookbook says greatly decreases the simmering time necessary for full flavoring of the stock. After sweating, water is added and the chicken is simmered with bay leaf and sautéed onions. A little less than sixty minutes from the start of this lengthy procedure, the stock is strained and then, and only then, can one start on the soup.

Into the strained stock went big chunks of carrot, celery, onion, shredded chicken, dried thyme, an ear of corn, three handfuls of orzo pasta, and fresh parsley at the very end.
Et voila, the most beautiful bowl of chicken soup my rhinovirus-dimmed eyes had ever seen:

The resulting soup was very rich - all the collagen from the chicken drumsticks made the broth thick and velvety. The soup actually set into aspic after a night in the fridge! The chicken itself was moist and flavorful, not rubbery and dead like all chicken coming out of a long-simmering broth. The vegetables though, the vegetables were the best part. The corn absorbed the copious amounts of chicken fat and became the softest, creamiest corn of all time, all while still retaining the snap of the individual kernels. It was divine.

I suspect the soup tastes best when someone makes it for you, unprompted and unselfishly, all the while you blow your nose loudly and whimper about how you are going to die imminently. Have someone make this soup for you next time you are sick. I am pretty sure you will feel better right away. Or at least you will feel your illness has been validated and you are being taken care of.

The recipe for this whole business is way too long for me to retype and really isn’t the point of this post, which is my feeling sick and whiny. So I won’t type it. Instead, I am going to sit on my couch and swallow more useless decongestants.


lissa said...

Hope you are feeling better! Should I bring some hot toddy ingredients to our impromptu fete? Look at me - dropping French like that :P See you soon!

One Food Guy said...

Hope you feel better. that chicken soup does look fantastic!

Mai said...

awww... sorry you're sick. it must be fall in Boston now, huh? that soup sounds divine and should make you feel better in no time. also, i validate your being sick. call me if mom doesn't pick up!

btw, here's a decongestant of all decongestants: add some freshly chopped serrano chili when serving. that shit clears you right up.

Anna said...

Lissa - No toddy at the fete, or else I will be unconscious by 8. Bon chance on Monday!!

One Food Guy - Thank you! I am almost back to normal today. Slowly getting my voice back - I no longer sound like an 80 year old man with a smoking habit.

Maiya - Nice decongestant tip, Mexico-style! I like it. Will try it... but am pretty sure that I will rub my eyeballs right after. That's just how I roll. Not so much with the forethought. It's totally fall in Boston, by the way. Already cold and windy. I am not emotionally prepared for fall. Get ready chica, it's not Oaxaca weather up here :(

rpg said...

On your feet, soldier.

(I don't do sympathy)


Neha said...

Feel better! The Texan sounds like a keeper (no, he did not pay me to say that). It was lovely to see you back in VA. My personal thought is that the S. Indian soup 'rasam' is the cure for the common cold. It has enough chili and spices to make any virus run for cover.

JC said...

I'm glad you're starting to feel better. That soup looks awesome!

Fall? It's hard to imagine at the moment. It was 88 here today. The Texan knows.

leena! said...

Lucky lady! Feel better soon!

mehdi said...

It reminds me of my mom's "patient's soup", the way we called it at home, even if no one was sick. if there was fresh parsley from the garden going into the soup, and fresh baked persian flat bread..... good old days.

Hope the joy of the chicken soup goes beyond the rhinovirus-ridden days!

Anna said...

RPG - Bah. Feet, yes. Consciousness... eh around 70%. Not quite there yet. Thanks though ;)

Neha - He totally paid you to say that. Just like him. Do you have a recipe for rasam kicking about anywhere? I want to try the spicy healing soup angle next time.

JC - If you're trying to make me jealous, it's working. I have been layering and shivering tons already, and it's not even October. Sometimes Boston is a downer.

Leena - Thanks! I am a lucky lady indeed. Heh.

Mehdi - Oh fresh baked bread. I cannot go a day without bread. I am sure there are people who could take it or leave it, I am also sure that I don't understand those people one bit. Bread is the best thing ever, especially when fresh.

mehdi said...

yes Anna, fresh bread is what i miss most. and its not bread that was baked somewhere else the same day which you get in a plastic bag. It was baked in front of you, the process starting when you put your order of the number of breads* (covered with poppyseeds or not, medium or well done...), and 10 minutes later, you have your hot whole wheat flat bread to take home.

I do miss that, along many other things.

* and I always had a hard time understanding why bread is uncountable in English!