It's begun to look a lot like cold season at our house. After 3 days of sniffling, I decided my husband needed a big ol' bowl of "grandma penicilin", AKA chicken soup. Grandma wasn't just flattering herself, either. Chicken soup has demonstrated that it can boost the immune system, help mucous move along, (don't you LOVE reading about mucous on a food blog?!) and inhibit increased infection. You can read about it here.
I love this "no recipe" recipe because once you buy the ingredients, any measuring is pretty much done. You chop what you've bought, put it in a pot, and let time do it's thang, minus some stirring at the end. I've spelled out my go-to veggies and quantities below, but you can pretty much sub in and out whatever you prefer or have on hand. After all, who the hell wants to go to the store when they're sick?
1 whole organic fryer chicken, about 3-4 pounds
2 yellow onions
4 celery stalks, leaves reserved
3 large carrots
1 leek, washed thoroughly and chopped into large pieces
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bulb fennel, diced medium, fronds reserved
2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced medium
1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and sliced thinly
2-3 tsp salt
Place the chicken in a very large stock pot. Remember to remove any giblets from the body cavity. Fill the pot with cold water until the chicken is just covered.
Coarsely chop one onion, two celery stalks, one carrot, and the leek into large pieces. Place into the stock pot along with bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns. Heat the pot over high until it begins simmering. Reduce to low and allow to cook 2 hours.
In the meantime, prep the rest of your vegetables. Chop the remaining onion, celery, and carrots to a medium dice. Same with the parsnips and fennel. Place chopped vegetables into one bowl. Set the kale aside on its own.
Once two hours have passed, strain out the liquid from your stock pot into another large pot through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the cooked chicken and set aside to cool.
In the pot you made your stock in, heat 2 glugs of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil moves around the bottom of the pan easily, add the chopped vegetables. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are nearly cooked through. (Test it by tasting a parsnip).
Once vegetables are al dente, add in the reserved chicken stock cup-by-cup. I typically use 8-10 cups to get the soup-to-solids balance I like, but your taste may be different. Bring the soup to a simmer and add the kale. Cook until tender. Remove the soup from heat.
On a cutting board, remove the meat from the chicken, discarding fat and skin along the way. I typically return about half the chicken to the soup pot, saving the rest for another use. This part is up to you—you might like your soup more chicken-y than me!
Once you return the chicken to the soup, and salt to taste. If the soup is tasting dull, it needs more salt. Don't be shy—this is a ton of soup! I have used well over a Tablespoon before, depending on how much stock I added back in.
Chop the reserved fennel fronds and celery leaves and garnish each bowl of soup.
Note: I dress up this soup a bunch of different ways. Feeling extra hungry? Make some quinoa, rice, or noodles to add in (but don't mix them into the soup when you store it unless you love mushy starch). Sometimes I add miso paste, wakame, and sriracha for an asian twist. Or handfuls of dill, a squeeze of lemon, and a hunk of crusty bread. Other times I just jazz it up with a simple drizzle of herby oil.