No matter the country or culture, every one of them has a version of chicken soup. There is something universal about a warm, briny brew with chunks of chicken, vegetables, herbs and sometimes rice or pasta. Depending on how it’s prepared, chicken soup provides fluids, fiber, protein and vitamins. It’s a delicious first course, soothing comfort food, and some even attribute it with healing powers (‘Jewish penicillin’). But it’s not just folklore. Chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory, inhibiting immune system cells from over-reacting. It also relieves nasal congestion and sore throats. Plus, the zinc in chicken improves absorption of nutrients from the vegetables and boosts immunity.
Concentrated chicken bone broth also reduces wrinkles in the skin. By simmering a quartered chicken, skin, bones and all, with carrots, celery and onions uncovered for two hours and removing the solids, you’ll have a concentrated broth that’s rich in hyaluronic acid, the same substance that our own bodies produce that plumps the skin. As we get older, our bodies produce less HA, so consuming it in chicken broth may help. Use organic, free-range chicken in this and the following recipes, because with their healthier diet and opportunity to exercise, they produce more HA than conventionally raised chickens.
Take a world voyage with some of these tasty versions of chicken soup.
Caldo de Pollo – Mexican Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken about 3-4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
8 cups of water
2 tsp. sea salt
½ sweet onion
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 celery stalks
3 large carrots cut into ¼-inch “coins”
2 zucchini or chayote squash, chopped into chunks
1 cup cooked white rice (optional)
1 lime, cut in wedges
2 sprigs fresh cilantro
For Garnish (place each in a bowl):
1 avocado, diced
½ sweet onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
1. Place chicken, water, and salt into a large stock pot at medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once foam starts forming on the surface, skim and discard.
2. After removing the foam, add the onion, garlic, and celery. Partially cover the pot. Turn heat down and gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Do not boil.
3. Add the carrots, cilantro and zucchini or chayote squash and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Check the chicken for doneness. Once cooked, remove and set aside to cool.
5. Keep simmering the broth for about 10 more minutes until carrots are completely cooked.
6. When the chicken pieces have cooled, shred or cut into small bite-sized pieces.
7. Strain the broth using a large fine mesh strainer. Set the vegetables aside. Return the broth to the pot and let it settle for about 8-10 minutes. Remove the fat that rises to the surface using a large spoon.
8. Turn the heat on low to warm and check if it needs more salt to your taste. Just before serving, squeeze a little lime to brighten the flavor of the soup. Place the cooked rice in the broth along with the shredded chicken, onions, celery, carrots, and squash. Heat and stir for a couple more minutes. Let everyone garnish their own soup.
Greek Egg and Lemon Soup
Avgolemono soup is a classic Greek soup that’s extra creamy and lemony. It’s traditionally made with shredded chicken and rice to make this a very comforting and filling soup. With its fresh herbs and bright lemon, it’s a great springtime dinner.
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white rice
3 cups shredded chicken
3 large egg yolks
Juice of 2 lemons
Freshly chopped dill, for garnish
Ground sumac, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add broth, thyme, and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until rice is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the shredded chicken to pot and bring back to a simmer.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and lemon juice. Slowly add ¼ cup of hot broth to eggs while whisking. Slowly whisk mixture back into the pot. Let simmer until thickened, 5 minutes.
3. Serve soup with fresh dill and lemon wedges.
French Onion Chicken Soup
The addition of chicken makes a main dish meal out of classic French Onion Soup.
4 Tbs. butter
4 sweet onions
4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
½ cup Marsala wine
1 whole rotisserie chicken – bones and skin discarded, meat shredded
1 ½ cups beef bone broth
4 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
1 16 oz. loaf sour dough bread, sliced into ½-inch thick slices
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
1. Peel and halve the onions. Then slice them.
2. Heat the butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and 2 sprigs of thyme, stir well, set the heat to low and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes.
3. Remove the lid, turn up the heat a bit and cook the onions until caramelized and the liquid has evaporated – about 10 or 15 minutes more.
4. Stir in the Marsala wine and simmer for a few minutes.
5. Stir in the shredded chicken, beef consommé and chicken stock. Bring the soup to a simmer and allow to cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
6. Taste the soup. Add salt if necessary.
7. Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls or ramekins.
8. Top each bowl of soup with a toasted sourdough bread slice. Top the soup with shredded cheese. Serve. Place the bowls of soup under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese until browned and bubbly.
9. Garnish with more fresh thyme
This classic Indian curry soup was created back in the days of the British Raj when the British colonialists asked their cooks to make soup. The cooks obliged, using ingredients they were most familiar with. It’s an example of how one culture acquires food from another and adapts it to their own taste.
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, scrubbed and chopped (about 1 cup)
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 ¼ lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of visible fat 2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt
¼ cup uncooked basmati rice
2 tart apples, cored, peeled, and chopped (about 2 cups)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt for garnish
1 Tbs. minced chives for garnish
1. Heat butter and olive oil on medium high heat in a large (4-to-5 quart), heavy pot. Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the bay leaves. Add the curry powder and mix to coat.
2. Add the chicken thighs and stir to coat with the curry mixture. Add the stock and water to the pot. Add the salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
3. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot. They should be just cooked through. Place on a cutting board and allow to cool to the touch.
4. Add the rice and the chopped apples to the soup. Return to high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through.
5. While the apples and rice are cooking in the soup, shred the chicken. Once the rice and apples in the soup are cooked, add the chicken back to the pot. Heat for 5 minutes more. Then stir in the cream.
6. To serve, top each bowl of soup with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with minced chives.