In Good Season: Just What the Doctor Ordered Good Chicken Soup Helps Chase Away Colds

We have always known — on a subconscious level, perhaps — that chicken soup is both consolation and reassurance, but we may not have had the recipe handy.

I can fix that. Chicken soup is one of those things that everyone’s mother used to make, without directions, without any careful measuring, almost automatically when anyone sneezed.

But everyone’s mother, it turns out, made it differently.

In the book, “Chicken Soup and Other Home Remedies,” author Joan Wilen says, “Traditions don’t thrive if they don’t work.” At the very least, chicken soup stirs up memories of feeling good.

“The Chicken Soup Book,” written by Leonore Fleischer, says that chicken feet make the difference between a good chicken soup and a religious experience.

Several other chicken soup experts agree that a quarter of a bouillon cube, a dash of chicken base or a splash of commercially made soup is often added to the pot. (… and if asked, they will deny this, vehemently.) The best chicken soup I have ever had was made with a big spoonful of peanut butter stirred in.

My wish is that you keep well through these cold winter months.

The recipe below is great for winter colds; the addition of hot pepper and sharp ginger will do wonders for a sore throat and will certainly clear the sinuses.


Spicy Hot Chicken Soup

  • 2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
  • 4 split chicken breasts
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ to 1½ tsps. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 to 2 tsps. Bouquet Garni
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tsps. salt, or to taste
  • ¾ lb. extra wide egg noodles
  • 2 scallions, sliced fine

Bone the chicken breasts, reserving the bones. Cut the chicken into ¾-inch chunks. Remove the skin if desired. In a large heavy pot, heat oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring. Add onion and garlic. When everything starts to brown (in about 5 minutes) add the cayenne and ginger. Stir constantly about a minute, then add the water, salt, and the bones you have set aside. Let everything come to a slow boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pot and let simmer for about an hour then add the noodles and the Bouquet Garni, a variable mixture of herbs, often containing basil, marjoram, rosemary, summer savory, thyme, tarragon, oregano, sage and dill weed. Choose whatever herbs you like, tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Cook 8 minutes more, remove the bones and the Bouquet Garni, and add the scallions and serve. This will make 2 quarts.


Mimi Sheraton’s cookbook “From My Mother’s Kitchen” includes this warning:

“Do not expect to make good soup with frozen chicken or any variety other than a fowl which requires long, slow cooking and so imparts whatever flavor it has to the soup.”


This is her Chicken Soup:

  • 1 5-6 pound fowl, preferably fresh killed
  • 2½ to 3 quarts water
  • 1 small or half a medium parsnip
  • 1 small root of Italian parsley
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots
  • 1 small or half a large knob of celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium leek
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves
  • 3 or 4 sprigs parsley
  • White pepper to taste
  • Pinch of sugar if needed

It is best to have the chicken quartered so it can be covered with as little water as possible. Place the chicken with giblets (but not the liver) and 2 teaspoons of salt in a soup pot; add just enough water to cover. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, skimming, until the soup seems clear. Then cover and simmer slowly for 45 minutes.

While the soup simmers, prepare the vegetables. Add all of these, cleaned and trimmed, along with celery and parsley sprigs, to the soup pot. Simmer 1½ hours longer, or until the meat begins to fall from the bone.

Remove the chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cool the broth, then strain it through a fine sieve. Return to a clean soup pot, season to taste.

The soup should be served scalding hot in wide, flat bowls, ladled over noodles, rice or other garnishes and liberally sprinkled with fresh parsley. This will make 2½ quarts.

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