Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Yo' Mama's Chicken Soup

My husband has been asking me to make chicken soup lately.  'Tis the season for it, I suppose.  We have been relatively healthy in our house as Old Man Winter has approached, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and chicken soup seems to be one of those magically special somethings that attend to both, as well as bringing comfort and joy to one and all.   I made the traditional standard chicken soup for years; but some time back, in my efforts to improve upon the time-honored ingredients in the “holy trinity” of mirepoix, I began bringing a bit more oomph to my golden elixir.  The naming comes from my passing this on to my own children, to be made for their future families, time in perpetua - as well as my sons' penchant for 'Yo Mama jokes.  My personal favorite was a sign outside of a restaurant which read, "Your Mama Eats Here". 

Making your own broth for your soup’s base feeds the taste buds as well as the body and soul.  For newbies to healthy cooking, I strongly encourage you to start here.  The first ingredient substitution was to exchange the humble potato for its sweet bright orange cousin.  Garlic is highly favored in our home, and is routinely added in triple the called-for amounts.   Including it and a lemony stump of ginger to the broth heightens the flavor.  I also began adding spinach, the safe green choice for those first venturing into gourmet dabbling on their own.  This time, however, I had a bag of mixed mustard and turnip greens in the fridge, and a new favorite was born!   The leaves are delicious, but the real treat were the ribs, which add a nice sort of bok-choyish crunch to the soup.  Those are the staples, with a little bit of this and that added from what we have on hand.  I forgot to add leeks I’d purchased this time, but I did drop in some frozen corn and zucchini cooked til al dente – delicioso!  I always add a generous squeezing of juicy lemon at the end for a delightful extra zing of flavor and Vitamin C.  I am purposely not labeling amounts – just use what you like and make this your own!  I read a wonderful book called One Bite at a Time by Rebecca Katz.  I am on my fifth round of checking this book out of the library, so I clearly just need to buy it.  She created what she calls the FASS Trick - which are the elements of taking a food to the YUM level.  I now cook with this mental reference always in mind.  If something's missing, its one of these four.
F - fats   A - acid   S - sweet    S - salty  

Ok, on to the cooking!     

Chicken, onion, celery, carrots, bay leaf
1)      1)  Begin by boiling your chicken with the veggies and leaf for broth – homemade is always best.  Once the chicken in tenderly cooked, remove and allow to cool on a plate for de-boning.  Separate into healthy bite-size pieces, not to shreds.  Remove the veggies and toss (I give the carrots to the dog) - they’ve done their job of imparting their goodness to the broth.

Sweet potatoes, zucchini, corn, greens, ginger, garlic, olive oil, sesame oil, sea salt.
2)      2) Slip the piece of ginger and minced garlic into the broth.  Peel sweet potatoes and chop into bite size pieces and add as well.  While the potatoes are gently boiling, add chopped greens to a medium hot pan holding a drizzling of olive and sesame oils each.  Cook til nicely wilted and add to the soup.  Chop up zucchini and add just before the potatoes are done.  Pour the frozen corn in, allow to reheat back up, then put the chicken (which should have cooled enough to be de-boned and waiting now) back in.  Salt to taste, and don't be afraid.  Soup needs some salt.  

A little hint: your soup may be a bit oily on top from the chicken skin.  I place a paper towel on top at the end of cooking to absorb the grease.  Two rounds should do it, and it makes for a “cleaner” soup.

I also like to chop up cilantro and add prior to serving.  A dribble of sriracha or other hot sauce is yummy too. Serve and share.  To your health!


  1. If I were a cooking man, I'd cook this. Those Star Wars movies won't watch themselves.

  2. I love my mama's chicken soup. In fact she is bringing some over on saturday, post surgery. She adds rutabagas to hers instead of potatos. YUM!!