Oh. My. God….I was on my deathbed last week! I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and all of that! Turns out, I just had an upper respiratory infection, and the light I saw? It was my son shining his flashlight into my face because I had taken Nyquil and he thought I was dead. But, you guys! The end felt so close. Thankfully, I made it through Thanksgiving like a boss! I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick with cholera (or a cold), I’m desperate to find some relief. It’s so difficult for me to remember what feeling healthy, well…what that feels like. I’ll pump myself full of vitamin C, slather Vick’s over every inch of skin (I am Puerto Rican, after all), and drink tea by the gallon. I also make this Medicine Bomb Chicken Soup recipe by the vat.
Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself,
“Here she goes trying to pawn off some snake oil.”
I’m not. Rude.
But, I’m so serious when I say that this bowl of soup contains legit healing properties derived from the plants and herbs it contains. Follow me for a minute. When I first developed this recipe I was, once again, on my deathbed. Yeah, yeah, I realize I’m on the verge of death quite often- pray for me. Dragging myself to my kitchen, I rummaged around to see what I could concoct that would give me the strongest boost of relief in the shortest amount of time.
Total transparency: if I had some morphine and vodka, your girl would’ve been sucking them both up at that point.
I found everything contained in this recipe and literally threw it into a pot to boil. The result was the best soup I’ve ever tasted. Honestly. I’ve tasted soups from all over the world, all over the world, and this is sitting pretty in the number one spot. My Twinks were beyond annoyed at how often (in between loud, obnoxious slurps) I mentioned it was the best tasting soup- EVER!
“Yes, Ma, we know. If you would actually finish eating it, instead of telling us about how amazing it is, it may help your cold!”
“Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food”-some really smart dude (AKA Hippocrates)
Because the chicken soup is crammed with the herbs and plants, it may be a bit overwhelming to eat without straining it. I enjoy munching on the various bits and pieces- believing they’ll give me superhero powers, or some crap like that. If you prefer to strain it, that works too. You’ll still have the life force of all the ingredients packed into the broth. Here’s what you’re going to be using:
Lots of Fresh Herbs
Rosemary is an oral disinfectant. It’s beneficial because your mouth is all grimy and germy when you’re sick. I figured, “Hey! Disinfecting my mouth with rosemary tastes better than that gross medicinal mouthwash!” It also helps alleviate headaches and relieves fevers. So, rosemary for the win.
Thyme has been commonly used as a treatment for coughs. Guess who was hacking up a lung? Me. It’s also a great source of vitamin C which, as we all know, helps boost your immunity. I’m the type of person who should be confined to a bubble, so I’m all about immunity-boosting.
Oregano is also great for reducing coughs and bronchitis. The oils found in the oregano plant have medicinal qualities that help ease sinus pain, as well as cold and flu symptoms. We could stop adding ingredients right here! But! I have paranoia, so no.
All of these herbs are rinsed and thrown into the pot to boil. When you’re ready to serve the soup, you fish out the stems (or strain them). You can also tie the herbs’ stems together with a piece of butcher’s twine, tie the end of the string to the pot’s handles, and when ready to serve, snip away the string. The entire bouquet of herb stems can be thrown away.
Lemongrass isn’t an herb, it’s a…well, it’s a grass. A plant, I should say. But this plant has a mild astringent which helps mollify the sore throats that accompany allergies and illness. Lemongrass also helps with pain, and I was in a lot of that.
You’ll, first, have to use your knife to trim the stalk of its browned ends, as well as it’s very tip. Then, cut them in four to five inch pieces.
You have to beat up lemongrass with the butt of your kitchen knife to release its oils and flavor. The addition of it to this soup makes the extra seconds of prep work well worth it.
Since this isn’t one of the ingredients that you’d want to chew on, making a pouch from cheesecloth is a great idea. Just cut a five inch square of cloth and fill it with the herbs, lemongrass, and star anise, then tie it with a bit of butcher’s twine. This herb sachet is great for infusing a dish with flavor in an efficient way. When you’ve finished cooking the soup, just pluck it out of the simmering broth, squeeze a little and toss into the trash bin!
Turmeric is of the unsung heroes of the medicinal plant world. This knobby, little root has so many healing properties it’s insane. Besides the anti-inflammatory qualities it’s packed with, turmeric is also a God-send for relieving pain of all kinds.
It also stains like the dickens, so use an old cutting board and wear gloves if having orange fingers is going to bother you. Again, I just knew I was dying, so I didn’t care what color my fingers were. Use a vegetable peeler, or the side of a regular spoon, to peel the thin skin from the piece of turmeric.
Once you’ve peeled the turmeric, slice it thinly into rounds.
Ginger is my go-to for upset stomach, but it also is a pain reliever when it comes to upper respiratory infections and bronchitis (among other pains). Peeling ginger is easy (as with turmeric), just use the side of a spoon to scrape off the thin, papery skin.
Once it’s peeled, cut it into matchsticks.
Garlic is mostly known to be a heart-health medicinal herb/root, but it also is great for healing coughs and colds. Too much of it will also cause bad breath, but when you’re sick you don’t even care about talking to someone, let alone making out with them. The garlic just needs a rough chop after peeling.
According to the National Onion Association, Onions can help reduce factors which lead to heart attacks and strokes. I just add them because they make the soup taste good. Cut the onion in half, peel it, then thinly slice.
A unique addition to the chicken soup
Star Anise is something that, if you don’t already have, you need to get into your kitchen cabinet. Not only does its unique taste enhance the flavor of many Middle Eastern and Asian dishes, it also acts as an expectorant to help you get rid of all the gunk that builds up in your chest when you’re sick. Star anise is known to help calm the nerves and to help get rid of flatulence…I don’t know what to say about that. It does have a licorice-y taste, so use with a light hand (one, or two, at the most). You don’t want your soup to be too overwhelmed with its flavor.
The classic chicken soup ingredients
Celery contains loads of vitamin C, AKA the Immunity-Boosting Boss. Some say it also relieves migraines (got ’em), helps to calm stress (got loads of that, too) and reduces blood pressure (check). Celery made the cut, literally and figuratively. And you’ll need to as well. Grab a cutting board and cut the celery stalks into slices half an inch thick. I like to cut mine on the bias solely for aesthetics.
Dispatching the chicken
Chicken (Bone) Broth is something I feel strongly about. I spoke, at length, here about how I don’t agree with the claims that bone broth is a cure-all. I do, however, love bone broth for its ability to soothe the throat and calm the nerves.
To break down a chicken, you’ll need to get hands on. You can use gloves. I don’t because it’s a waste of time, money, and they tend to give you into a false sense of sanitation. You’re less likely to clean your hands, and more likely to inadvertently touch things you shouldn’t, when wearing gloves, so I go without.
Use your knife to cut away the thin skin between the chicken thigh and the bottom of the breast. The rest of the leg will come away easily when that skin is cut.
Use your thumb to find the joint where the thigh bone meets the back bone and cut through it with your knife. Repeat for the other thigh and leg piece.
Use your thumb, once again, to find the join where the wing and the backbone meet. Send your blade through that to remove both wings.
Turn the chicken onto its side and use your knife to cut through the thin rib bones. This will separate the back from the breasts.
Place the heel of your knife’s blade right in the center of the breast bone. There’s a piece of cartilage there, the keel bone, that you’ll need to prod out of hiding.
Take the breasts into your hands and fold them back (like you’re opening a book). This will force the keel bone to pop up. You can grab the wider end (near where you made the cut) and pull it out completely now.
From there, cut the breasts to separate them.
Bringing it to a (gentle) boil
Once everything is sliced, diced, and pepped, grab a large stock pot and sweat your aromatics in a small amount of fat.
Add the veg and the spices and cook for a few more minutes.
Now add the chicken pieces.
Add the water, followed by the salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Once the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat and cover. Simmer for an hour, or longer (up to two hours), skimming the surface of any foamy, grey impurities (you can discard those).
Once your soup has finished cooking, remove the lemongrass, star anise, and any stems. You can also strain it completely, but as I said, I prefer to nibble on the aromatics and chicken.
Ladle and enjoy
I’m on the mend. I’m back to feeling slightly normal- well, as normal as I can be (and we all know it ain’t that much). The Twinks are still in recovery, but I’m hoping that with a few more shots of this chicken soup, they’ll be right as rain.
Tell me, have you been sick yet this year? Do you need this chicken soup as much as I did? Comment below and talk to me about it, then pin the recipe for making later.
Disclaimer: this recipe is not a cure for illness or medical issues. Please consult a medical professional if needed.
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Medicine Bomb Chicken Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 white onions peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 head of garlic peeled and sliced
- 2" piece of ginger peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1" piece of turmeric peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- 3 stalks of celery sliced thinly on a bias
- 2 carrots peeled and sliced
- 1 5" piece of lemongrass bruised by smashing with the butt of a kitchen knife
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 tbsp of dried oregano
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1 3-4 lb chicken cut in serving pieces (8) or 1 whole, cut-up chicken (giblets discarded)
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 star anise pod
- In a very large stock pot or soup pot, heat the oil over med-high heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger, and allow to sweat for 3 minutes or until translucent.
- Add the turmeric, celery, carrots, lemongrass, and the herbs and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken to the pot, followed by the water, salt and pepper and finally, the star anise. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to low.
- Allow the soup to simmer on low for 1 hour.
- Remove the soup from the stove and remove the chicken pieces from the soup. Shred the meat from the bones, discarding both the bones and the skin. Also discard the lemongrass, the star anise and the herbs' woody stems. See note. Adjust the seasoning, if needed, to your taste by adding more salt or pepper.
- Ladle into bowls and serve while hot. The soup can be stored under refrigeration for up to one week or frozen for up to two months.