So I mentioned this last week, but I recently came down with a nasty case of the flu.
Work has been really crazy lately with all kinds of things in transition and I’ve been feeling a little run down. We just hired two new people, and on their first day I woke up feeling pretty terrible. I thought it was just my allergies so I took a Zyrtec and went about my day, but few hours in I knew that it was worse than that. Being in the midst of training new staff I didn’t have any other option than to stick it out and hope things would turn around, so I just tried to power through. I ended up leaving work early anyway though, and I didn’t return for several days.
As soon as I got home I knew I was in real trouble. Up until that point I assumed I’d just caught a cold and that all I needed was to take it easy and get a good night’s sleep. When I got home though, I hit the couch like a ton of bricks, and didn’t move for hours. When I tried to pull myself up to get some water, I could barely walk. Every muscle in my body felt sore, painful and weak, and I felt as if my legs might give out on my way to the kitchen. I went back to the couch and pretty much remained there for the next few days.
When I say pretty much though, I mean that I did get up a few times to cook myself some food and maybe do some cleaning.
Even with my head in a total fog, I make a terrible sick person. I’m very easily distracted and can’t sit still for very long. I find it virtually impossible to nap, sick or not, and even though I was well aware that rest and sleep were the best things for me, I spent most of my time watching old movies and finding things to keep my mind off of being sick. You already know about the brownies, but there was also some seriously tasty chicken soup.
Part of me thinks that there’s something kind of depressing about making your own chicken soup when you’re sick, but Russell was at work, and I was bored out of my mind. A man can only watch Steel Magnolias on Netflix so many times before he needs to get up and do something, drippy nose and jelly muscles or not. Having something to do helped me take my mind off of how horrible I felt, and when I was done I had something to eat that made me feel a little bit better.
Being sick, I instantly craved chicken soup. There’s a lot of debate on whether chicken soup is actually good for you when you’re sick, or if it’s just an old wive’s tale. If you really look into the research though, it appears that chicken soup is called Jewish Penicillin for good reason.
Any hot liquid will help open up nasal passages and soothe a sore throat, while also hydrating people in need of plenty of fluids, but there are other benefits specific to chicken soup that you can’t get from tea or hot water. Homemade chicken stock is packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are great for the immune system. It’s also packed with gelatin which does wonders for your body, and lots of schmaltz (chicken fat) that has great immune boosting powers and is packed with much needed energy to help fight illness. There are even studies that say eating chicken soup helps encourage white blood cells to stay where they need to be to fight infection.
Whether my soup actually helped me get over the flu or not, it certainly hit the spot. Roasting the chicken and the vegetables before making the stock gives the soup a really rich and concentrated flavor. Once the chicken is roasted, the bones and skin can be used to make the stock, and the meat can be refrigerated and added back in once the stock is finished simmering. This ensures that the meat has a great texture, and that it’s super tasty since the flavor isn’t pulled out in the stock making process. Add in tender fresh vegetables, wild rice with a just a hint of bite, and freshly torn dill for some bright summery freshness, and you’ve got a soup that will make anyone feel great, whether they’re sick or not!
Roasted Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
3 medium onions
2 parsnips, optional (I just like the earthy flavor it gives the stock)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt & pepper, to taste
4 stalks of celery
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon celery seeds (optional)
generous fist-full of parsley
1 cup wild rice or wild rice & brown rice medley
2 or 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment. Generously season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and arrange on the baking sheet, leaving some room for vegetables. Chop two whole onions (skin on) into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Roughly chop 2 parsnips and 2 carrots and add to the bowl with the onions, along with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread evenly on baking sheet with chicken pieces.
Roast chicken and vegetables until well browned and crispy looking, about 40 minutes, being careful nothing burns. Let cool, at least until you can handle the chicken without burning yourself.
Transfer vegetables to a large (at least 6 quarts) heavy bottom stockpot. Remove skin from chicken and add to pot (resist the urge to eat it all). Pull meat from bones and chop or tear into bite-size pieces; place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Add chicken bones to stockpot along with parsley, bay leaves, & celery seed. Roughly chop 2 celery stalks (with leaves on), add to the pot, and cover everything with 12 cups of water. Place over high heat, bring to a low boil, and turn heat down to a simmer. Cover pot and let simmer low and slow for at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, dice remaining onion and celery stalks, and slice carrots into small bite-sized disks. Strain finished stock into a large bowl with a fine mesh strainer or a colander layered with cheesecloth, discarding boiled chicken bones and vegetables. Wipe out stockpot, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and heat over medium high heat. Add chopped onion, celery, & carrot, and sautée until translucent and beginning to brown, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes. Add wild rice or rice medley, stir, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add strained stock, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until rice is about 10 minutes from being cooked, about 30 minutes. See your rice’s cooking instructions for how long this should take. Add chicken meat to pot along with half of the chopped dill and simmer for 10 minutes more.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in remaining dill and serve immediately.
*cooks note: I find that dark meat pieces will give your stock the best flavor, but white meat is the nicest meat for the soup, so I like to use a whole chicken cut up into pieces. If you can’t find a broken down whole chicken and don’t want to do it yourself, you can use a mix of thighs and breasts, legs and breasts, or whatever you like.