Sick Food: Chicken Noodle Soup 3 Ways

I’ve been sick. No, it isn’t COVID-19, thank goodness. It’s just a sinus infection run amok thanks to a confluence of genetics, weather, and environment. I’m dizzy–sometimes intolerably so–prone to migraines from the pressure, and super tired. You know. The usual. It isn’t life-threatening in a time when that distinction feels incredibly potent, so I ignored it for the first week and kept working my normal schedule, and then admitted it by the second week, just in enough time for me to feel likely even worse than I would have if I’d just rested during the first week. It’s been three weeks and two rounds of antibiotics (I just started the second round yesterday) and I’m finally starting to feel measurably better, though a quick trip downtown to campus yesterday landed me on the couch wathing old seasons of “The Amazing Race” for 5 hours recovering until I finally let myself go to bed.

During this period, especially those first two weeks, very little sounded good that wasn’t a carb. Except, of course, chicken noodle soup, that magic elixir of healing and comfort. But eating the same soup over and over can get quite boring, even with the most delicious of soup recipes. So, naturally, we made three different chicken noodle soups. I say “we” because for the first round of soup, I was so sick that Brian had to make it using my recipe. He is not an adept cook, so this was extra special and he did marvelously.

It worked its magic, though, and after a few days of eating that I was able to cook again, making round two and then a week later round three. Each of these soups are classics in our home that all help when you need a big warm hug in a bowl. The first is the most classic American-style chicken noodle soup. The second is actually a Vietnamese-style pho/ramen mash-up. It’s a mash-up because I rarely have the rice noodles that pho requires on hand, especially in sickness “emergency” and so tend to use ramen-style noodles more often. It is originally inspired by this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo. My kids have simply called it “The Good Ramen” since the first time I served it and it’s one of their favorite dinners. The third was inspired by the second, using a lot of the same process but adjusting the flavor-profile to be Latin-American inspired.

Magic Healing Chicken Noodle Soup
Yield: about 4 quarts

2 chicken breasts (unless you made homemade stock and have the whole chicken)
5 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced including the hearts and stems
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 pound medium width egg noodles (homemade, frozen, or dried)
about 3 quarts homemade chicken stock (or boxed/made from “better than bouillon” soup base)
the juice of 1 very large lemon, about 2 T
2 to 4 T honey (to taste – more helps your throat)
1 T plus 1 t herbes de provence
1 t plus 1/4 t dried lavender flowers
sea salt and pepper

Optional Homemade Chicken Stock:
1 whole chicken, uncooked, legs and wings chopped
½ head of garlic, unpeeled and just smashed
5 celery stocks, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 sprigs fresh parsley
5 sprigs fresh thyme
½ lemon
5 whole peppercorns
1 T sea salt
about 3 quarts of cold water (enough to cover everything completely in the pot)

For the stock: Place the chicken in a large pot with a lid and add everything else.  Pour water in, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer about 4 hours, skimming the fat off the top periodically.  Place a small-holed colander over a large pot or storage container and strain the stock into it, reserving the chicken. The chicken will be so cooked it will shred off the bone and the skin. You can use this meat however you’d like. You can freeze stock in portions.

Note: You can use simply a chicken carcass (no meat left on it) to make stock, and in fact, this is really excellent to just get in the habit of doing. If you’re just using a carcass and not the whole chicken, I recommend using 2 for this quantity to get a flavorful stock.

For the soup: Place chicken stock in stockpot and bring to a boil.  Add whole chicken breasts and poach until done and soft, about 20 minutes.  Remove to a cutting board and dice, then add back to stock.  Cut-up remaining vegetables and add to stock, then season with everything else (but the noodles).  Boil for 10 minutes then add the noodles and cook until done – about 10 more minutes.  Add a little more lemon juice and the 1/4 t lavender just before serving for fragrance.

Note: Feeling naueseous? You can add up to 1 t of fresh ginger to this.

“The Good Ramen” aka Instant Pot Chicken Ramen
Yield: about 2 1/2 quarts

For the broth
1 heaping T whole coriander seeds
5 whole cloves
3 inch section of fresh ginger, peeled, chopped into a few sections, and bruised
1 whole sweet onion, roughly cut into smaller chunks
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and cut into a few smaller pieces
3 T tamari reduced sodium soy sauce
3 T fresh or bottled lime juice
1 fuji apple, peeled and diced
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, stems separated from leaves and stems cut into pieces
1 whole 4-5 pound chicken
1 T sea salt
8 C cool water

For serving-
extra soy sauce (to taste)
extra fresh or bottled lime juice (to taste)
2 T honey
1/2 t siracha or more to taste
extra chopped jalapeno
the chopped cilantro leaves removed from the stems from earlier
chopped green onion
the chicken from the broth, chopped
Ramen-style or Rice noodles, thin

For the broth: In an Instant Pot, heat on “saute” and warm the whole coriander and cloves for 1-2 minutes, until very fragrant. Add the ginger and onion and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring, until even more fragrant. Immediately add 4 cups of cool, fresh water to stop the cooking. Add the jalapeno, lime juice, soy sauce, and sea salt. Add the chicken, and then the chopped cilantro stems and apple. Add the remaining water just up to the “Max Fill” line (this will depend on the size of your chicken, so it may not be 8 cups exactly). Using “manual pressure” cook chicken for 14-16 minutes (14 for a 4 pound and 16 for a 5 pound). Release the pressure and then strain the broth into a large stockpot using a fine mesh strainer. Remove the chicken to a cutting board.

For serving: The broth should not be in a large stockpot on the stovetop. We just need to bring it up to a hot temperature again enough to cook the noodles. I always add a little extra soy sauce and lime juice to the broth (probably 2 T each) and then let everyone add more to their taste (we all are citrus lovers and will ALWAYS add more fresh lime over the top). I also add honey and a squirt of siracha to the broth. Now, it’s time to “add” the noodles.

For the noodles, we tend to have on-hand most the packages of instant ramen. These work! Just discard the seasoning packet and use the noodles. Presto. You can use boxes of plain ramen noodles. You can use rice noodles. To cook the noodles, I’ve done this several ways, recognizing that traditionally the noodles would not be added to the entirety of the broth so that they don’t overcook. What I wouldn’t give for some actual ramen bowls with the lids (maybe one day?). I’ve taken the extra care to heat about half the broth in a separate stock pot, added the noodles (not boiling!) and put a lid on for a few minutes until the noodles are done. I’ve added noodles to a large bowl and poured hot broth over and put a make-shift lid over (this did not work the best). And I’ve simply gone “to heck with it” and added the noodles directly to the large stockpot, knowing we’ll likely eat most of this, anyway, because that’s how good it is. 🙂 Choose your path.

Once you’ve got finished noodles swimming in happy broth, top with the cooked, diced-up chicken, green onions, extra jalapeno, extra cilantro, extra lime juice, soy sauce, and siracha (if you’re Brian and I). Or, simply chicken, green onions, and lime juice if you’re our kids. YUMMY DELICIOUS.

Ah! I was so sick I forgot to photograph it. 🙂 Photo forthcoming!

Latin-Inspired “Chicken Ramen”
Yield: about 2 1/2 quarts

For the broth
1 t whole cumin seeds
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 T chili powder
1/4 t ground oregano
a few turns of the pan of olive oil
1 sweet onion
4 cloves garlic
1 carrot
1 large bunch of cilantro, stems cut from leaves and stems only for now
1/4 C fresh or bottled lime juice
1/4 C honey
1 1/2 T sea salt
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and cut into a few pieces
1 whole 4-5 pound chicken
8 cups cool, fresh water

For serving
extra honey
extra lime juice
siracha, to taste
sliced avocado
chopped cilantro
chopped green onion
thawed frozen corn
extra jalapeno
the chicken from the broth, chopped
ramen-style or even thin pasta noodles

For the broth: Using the same process from “The Good Ramen,” add the spices to a dry Instant Pot and toast using the “saute” function for 1-2 minutes. Add some olive oil to make a paste and then add the onion for 1-2 minutes and then the garlic for another 1 minute. Add 4 cups (half) the water to stop the cooking. Add all the other ingredients and then cook on “manual pressure” for 14-16 minutes, as stated above. Release the pressure carefully and then strain the broth into a large stockpot using a fine mesh strainer, reserving the chicken to a cutting board.

For serving: Using the same process from “The Good Ramen,” add a little extra lime juice and honey to the broth. Add a squirt of siracha to taste. Use the same methods as described above to choose your noodle cooking path, recongizing that if you use regular pasta noodles, your best option will be to add them to the stockpot and let them simmer 6-8 minutes. Once you have finished noodles and tasty, tasty broth, let each person top their soup to their choosing. For Brian and I this means all the fixin’s of avocado, corn, jalapeno, ciliantro, green onion, chicken, and even more lime juice. For the kids it’s usually just chicken, maybe some corn, green onion, and lime juice.

Published by kelinmchull

Wife, mother, teacher, dreamer/doer, adventurer, wannabe farmer, writer, and all around curious gal.

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