Chicken Soup for the Common Cold

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I woke up this morning with a sore throat and a cold. I wasn’t surprised when I noticed that I felt like I had a small boulder in my throat. My family and I had a very busy week, Sophie spent most of it with a cold, and Maddie had come down with one Friday night. As my girls like to crawl in bed with me when they’re sick and sleep with their sweet little faces coughing into mine, it’s really a miracle I wasn’t sick before today.

I’m a lover of soup on any given day and in every season. I love all types of soup with all types of textures. Meaty and vegetable-based both have a place in my heart, as do brothy and creamy. I love a Williams-Sonoma creamy wild mushroom soup that I make every holiday season, as well as the fresh summer tomato and basil soups I make each summer. It’s all good. When I’m sick, however, I crave a steaming bowl of brothy chicken soup full of vegetables and little else

In addition to feeling that soup has some lovely restorative properties for a tired and ailing body, I also appreciate that making soup gives me an opportunity to use some of those vegetables sitting in my refrigerator that I had all but given up on. Today, I had the opportunity to use the second fennel bulb I bought a week ago but hadn’t yet eaten, as well as three forlorn turnips that I bought at the farmer’s market a week earlier but hadn’t yet used.

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In addition to these vegetables, I picked up some fresh baby spinach, full of vitamins A, B6, and E along with a healthy dose of calcium, that seemed just right for healing my cold. It took about an hour to make my soup, but much of that time was spent on a stool at my kitchen counter, trying to wake my brain up enough to do the Sunday New York Times crossword. Other than chopping up some vegetables, this soup is a breeze, even for a sick girl like me.

Homemade Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Pancetta

3 Tbsp olive oil

4 chicken skinless thighs

1/4 cup chopped pancetta

1 small ribs of celery (or one large rib) diced

1 large leek halved and sliced

1 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

4 cups water

1/2 fennel bulb sliced

3 small turnips cut into 1/8 slices

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 Meyer lemon or 1/2 regular lemon with zest

3 oz fresh baby spinach

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium high heat. When oil is hot, salt chicken thighs and add them to the pot, searing each side.
  2. Remove chicken thighs and then add pancetta, celery, and leeks to the pot.
  3. When pancetta is browned and vegetables are wilted, readd the chicken thighs and let them cook another minute or two more.
  4. Add water, canned tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add fennel and turnips to the pot and cook for another ten minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove chicken from the pot and strip all the meat off. Readd the chicken meat to the soup.
  8. In a blender or small Cuisinart, chop parsley, 1 Tbsp olive oil and the zest and juice from a 1/4 Meyer lemon or 1/2 regular lemon. Add to the soup.
  9. Turn off the pot and add the baby spinach. Stir to wilt the spinach.
  10. Taste and add more seasonings if needed.
  11. Serve immediately with a wedge of crusty bread or on top of cooked pasta, which is how my kids love it.

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