I have lived on the West Coast for most of my life, but other than trying not to take more medicine than I ever really needed, I never was into the whole holistic heeling thing. Until recently. My first visit to an acupuncturist pretty much blew my mind--I couldn't believe how much better I started feeling after my first visit. It wasn't that I was really feeling bad, just perpetually tired, like I could never get that caffeine kick in the morning to power through a manuscript like I used to.
One of the things that I left the appointment with was a drive to change a few things about the way I cooked for myself and others. She recommended that I eat more meat and less salad. And to exercise less, not more. These were all things that will, over time, bring back my old can-do energetic spirit.
Another thing that was crucially important was the idea that I should drink more warm liquids and eat more warm foods going into the fall and winter seasons. And broth has healing properties, too. Which is why I'm revisiting the idea of this soup, which is something I have made variations of for the past five years. The key is the broth, which is good for sipping as well as slurping in soup. So while I've made denser soups in the past, for this one I go for more broth. Use the range provided to get the effect you're after.
Feel Good Chicken Soup
Makes about 2 quarts
Here I use brown rice, which increased the cooking time substantially. For this reason, after briefly sautéeing the vegetables, I remove them and add them later to preserve their texture–few things in soup are more depressing than mushy carrots. I also had Swiss chard leaves on hand, so in they went, along with half of a serrano chile and some minced ginger. With these additions, this soup can help fight not only a head cold but also just that plain, low-energy, rundown feeling that everyone gets from time to time.
- 2 to 3 bone-in chicken thighs
- 5 to 6 cups chicken broth (6 for a brothy soup)
- Vegetable oil
- 2 stalks celery, diced into ½-inch chunks (about 3/4 cup)
- 2-3 carrots, diced into ½-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
- ½ yellow onion or 1 small yellow onion, diced into ½-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
- Kosher salt
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 1/2 serrano chile, sliced thinly*
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1/3 cup brown rice
- 1 cup sliced Swiss chard leaves
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro, plus extra for serving
- Extra virgin olive oil for serving
- Lemon or lime wedges for serving
- Put the chicken in a medium pot and pour in the broth. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the chicken steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain the broth through a mesh strainer into a bowl, then rinse the pot and return it to the stove. When the chicken breasts are cool enough to handle, peel away and discard the skin and bones, then shred the meat into spoon-sized pieces.
- Heat the oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the celery, carrot, and onion, season with a generous pinch of salt, and sweat until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Set the vegetables aside and return the pot to the stove. If the pot looks dry, add a splash of vegetable oil. Stir in the garlic, chile, and ginger and sauté over medium heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the rice and toast briefly, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 25 minutes.
- Stir in the vegetables and chicken and bring the soup to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 10minutes. Sir in the chard and cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Serve each bowl with fresh cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil on top and a few lemon or lime wedges alongside.
*For less heat, remove the seeds from the serrano chile slices before adding them.