Healing Chicken and (Zucchini) Noodle Soup

Comment

Healing Chicken and (Zucchini) Noodle Soup

SICK DAY DIARY — 9:30 a.m. 
Abby and I finally drag ourselves out of bed. We share scraps from the bread bag. Maybe we will make chicken soup.

Last week the weather finally turned wetter and (slightly) warmer. I had two cocktails and stayed up until midnight on a Friday. And then I promptly caught a nasty spring cold. That's how I found myself laid up at home on a Wednesday, sniffling my brains out. Just me, my dog and a rapidly diminishing supply of tissues. 

I absolutely loathe being sick because it makes me feel like a massive waste of space. Unless I feel in jeopardy of contracting pneumonia, I will almost always walk (slowly) to the nearest grocery store and buy ingredients for chicken soup. 

abbywalk

SICK DAY DIARY — 12:30 p.m.
Abby and I venture out into the harsh light of afternoon. We see none of our usual kitty friends, but we do spot a new one. Luckily I brought enough tissues to last on the journey to Abby's favorite poop spot.

My recipe changes a little every time, as it should. There really isn't a wrong way to do this! But the basics remain the same: Lots of vegetables. Chicken thighs that cook in the broth. Plenty of kick to clear the sinuses and garlic to boost the immune system.

I guess now is as good a time as any to say that I don't trust anyone who would write a recipe for chicken soup and NOT include at least four cloves of garlic.

SICK DAY DIARY — 2 p.m.
Abby graciously offers to do all of the laundry.

Making this soup is a healing ritual in itself. Taking your time to chop the vegetables, watching the broth begin to simmer and making your kitchen smell far better than your sickbed are all good for you. They make you feel purposeful, hopeful that every sneeze puts you one closer to not sneezing again. They may even make you forget that you are wearing very gross clothes and have not applied deodorant for two days.

Maybe.

SICK DAY DIARY — 4:30 p.m.
Laundry folded and dinner prepared before 5, Abby and I are content with our efforts. Maybe we will be sick again tomorrow.

chicken and zucchini noodle soup

based on bon appetit. inspired by the universal human desire for comfort.

NOTE: This is a double batch of soup that will ensure plenty of leftovers. As a recently sick person who loves eating food, there is nothing more exciting to me than the idea of not having to cook again for several days. However, you may disagree — or you may have a smaller soup pot, or you may dislike having leftover soup, or you may be kind of terrible — so rest assured this can easily be halved.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Orzo is a wonderful, wonderful substitute for the zucchini noodles. It makes for a more filling soup and complements the lemon, dill and leek flavors so well. I opted out because I wanted a healing elixir, not a total starch-fest. Next time we'll have a starch-fest.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons butter
     
  • 2 jalepenos or other chili peppers, minced (Remove the seeds if you're scared of spicy things.)
     
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
     
  • 3 medium-sized leeks, thinly sliced
     
  • 4 carrots, chopped into chunks
     
  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced crosswise
     
  • 2 yellow squash, chopped into chunks
     
  • 2 zucchinis, made into skinny noodles (I own a spiralizer, which is a magical and affordable product that will change your relationship with vegetables entirely by allowing you to turn them into ribbons and noodles in seconds. You should buy one IMMEDIATELY. If you do not own one, don't worry about it. Just chop the zucchinis the same way you did the yellow squash. Or omit them. Or sub 3/4 cup of orzo! Really, there is no law saying you can't use whatever goddamn vegetables you want, cut into whatever shapes you want. This is your healing ritual and it's not meant to be rocket science. But ZUCCHINI NOODLES, though!)
     
  • 14 cups chicken broth (Vegetable broth would work in a pinch.)
     
  • 4-6 chicken thighs (Boneless and skinless are my go-to, but I had skin-on/bone-in on hand, which worked just as well.)
     
  • 1 large lemon
     
  • Two healthy handfuls of fresh dill
     
  • Kosher salt
     
  • Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare your vegetables, garlic and peppers. Set the squash chunks and zucchini noodles, if using, aside.
     
  2. Melt the butter in your favorite large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, jalepenos, carrots and celery. Saute until softened, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
     
  3. While the veggies cook, clean your chicken thighs and set them aside.
     
  4. Once the veggies have made your kitchen smell incredible, add the broth and the chicken thighs. Crank up the heat and bring the pot to a boil. Then, lower the heat so the pot simmers steadily. Cover and do not disturb for 20-25 minutes.
     
  5. Retrieve the chicken thighs from the pot and place them on a plate or cutting board to cool. Once you can handle them without scalding yourself, shred them into chunks (I like to use two forks!).
     
  6. After removing the chicken thighs, add the yellow squash and keep the soup at a simmer. If you're using orzo, and only if, add it now and bring the pot back to a boil. Either way, leave the soup uncovered and let it cook for 8-10 more minutes. 
     
  7. Turn off the heat. Add the shredded chicken, dill and zucchini noodles to the pot. Juice the entire lemon into the mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
     
  8. Serve with crusty buttered bread (and ginger tea with honey). This soup will be even more magical and delicious the next day.

Comment

You Should Cook This: Tuna Mac and Cheese

Comment

You Should Cook This: Tuna Mac and Cheese

tunamac1

My mom, just like my grandmother before her, is a wonderful cook.

Despite working full time, she regularly and singlehandedly managed to get a delicious square meal to the dinner table. (This doesn't seem exceptional until you try to do it yourself.) And even as teenagers, when everyone's schedules got busier, we almost always ate together — even if it was after 9 o'clock, or if it was just boxed Kraft mac and cheese.  

Boxed mac and cheese wasn't the norm. But — like most ridiculous things kids like — it was what most excited me and my brothers. Our mom's most frequent and beloved iteration involved dumping a can of tuna and a handful of frozen peas into the finished product. I am not kidding when I say that somehow those two small additions made the mac transcendent. 

As a recipe, it was bomb-proof, effortless, crowd-pleasing and relatively healthy. It was also something even a kid couldn't mess up. I made it for my younger siblings several times while on babysitting duty. 

On Thursday I worked from home while it snowed for nearly 12 hours. There's nothing like watching five inches of snow coat your yard in early March to make you crave comfort food. (Or drive you to drink. Or a combination of the two.) Luckily, I had just stocked up on wine and five kinds of cheese. I also had half-finished packages of whole wheat pasta and frozen vegetables taking up space in the cupboard and freezer.

And a can of tuna.

The wheels turned. My stomach growled. A fierce nostalgia bubbled up from somewhere. Et voilà! This recipe was born. 

tunamac3

Why you should make this

This isn't as onerous as some mac and cheese recipes I've tried. The ingredients list is fairly sparse. You could make it even more so by omitting the tuna or the veggies, or by sticking with only one or two kinds of cheese (side note: If you're the kind of person who would do that, we can no longer be friends). As long as you're making some kind of cheese sauce and adding some kind of noodle, you're golden.

The extras really transform it, though. And they're easy extras — from your freezer and from a can. So I suggest you don't skimp.

Speaking of not skimping: Don't under-do it on the cheese. This recipe calls for 12-ish ounces. When in doubt, go with the -ish. No one will be upset.

tunamac2

tuna mac and cheese

based on tasting table. inspired by mom.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 pound pasta (I used a combo of whole wheat penne and rotini — because those were the scraps left in my cupboard — and they worked beautifully. But almost any kind would do. Just avoid stringy long noodles like spaghetti or fettuccine.)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus some more for buttering your casserole dish, should you used one. I prefer to do this in a cast iron skillet so it can go from stovetop to oven.)

  • 1/4 cup flour

  • 3 cups whole milk, warmed

  • Sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 12-ish ounces cheese, shredded (For this, I used 6-ish ounces cheddar, 2-ish ounces gruyere, 2-ish ounces gorgonzola and 2-ish ounces smoked gouda. I would gladly do it with just gruyere and cheddar, or just cheddar, or whatever — because I love cheese and can’t get enough. You do you. Just make sure you don’t skimp, because not putting enough cheese in mac and cheese is a terrible sin that you do NOT want on your conscience.)

  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

  • 1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard, depending on your taste 

  • 1 5-ounce can of tuna (I like Tonno packed in olive oil.)

  • 1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (I used corn, green beans, peas and carrots, because it was what I had on hand, and the sweetness of the corn and carrots ended up being a wonderful complement. But you could easily do this with just peas, just corn, just carrots… or even frozen kale or spinach. Or no veggies at all. You do you.)

  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 350° degrees. Boil a large pot of salted water while you’re shredding your cheese (trust me, you’ll be glad that you did this first, because everything else comes together quickly once the dreadful shredding is done).

  2. Once the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta until it’s very al dente. For the last two minutes of cooking, toss in the frozen vegetables to thaw. Drain pasta and veggies into a colander and set aside.

  3. Meanwhile, make some béchamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (preferably that large cast iron skillet, which you can transfer right to the oven!) over medium heat. Stir in the flour, whisking constantly, until golden and no longer raw smelling, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the warm milk, a little at a time. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with the whisk constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with a couple pinches of salt and a few pinches of freshly ground black pepper.

  4. Remove the béchamel from the heat and stir in the mustard, the red pepper flakes and three-fourths of the shredded cheese. Stir until combined; all the cheese will have melted at this point, and you should resist the urge to eat the cheese sauce straight from the pan with a spoon (goodnight and good luck). Flake the tuna into the dish with a fork. Fold in the cooked pasta and veggies. Stir to combine evenly. Taste and season again as needed.

  5. If you’re not using an oven-safe pan, now’s the time to transfer your masterpiece to the buttered casserole dish. Top the tuna/noodle/veggie mixture with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.

  6. Serve with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. 

Comment

How to make a hot toddy

Comment

How to make a hot toddy

image.jpg

Is it winter? Do you live in a cold and horrible place? Are you in one of the various stages of being a human popsicle?

Well, my friend, it's time to make a hot toddy.

STEP ONE: Boil some water. 

STEP TWO: While the water is boiling, gather your ingredients. (Don't you hate it when a recipe involves putting water on to boil, and the author doesn't mention that until Step Three or something? You could have already been DONE with that noise.)

Anyway, ingredients include lemon juice, a tea bag, honey and whiskey. 

Are you getting anxious because those ingredients weren't very specific? Guess what. It doesn't matter. Fresh lemon juice is easy and preferable, but the stuff out of the plastic bottle is OK in a pinch. Any plain or subtly spiced tea is OK, regardless of caffeine content. Your honey doesn't have to come from local bees.

This is a winter survival exercise, not Iron Chef America.

As for the hard stuff, any respectable bottle of mixing-quality brown liquor will do you just fine. I enjoy Rittenhouse or Old Overholt, because I don't like to spend more than $20 on whiskey that's mixed with hot tea and lemon juice. But that's just me.

STEP THREE: Coat the bottom of your mug -- oh, did I forget to mention that all you need is a mug? If you're about to make a hot toddy in a silly glass with a tiny handle, or something made of metal, or anything other than a plain old ceramic coffee mug, God help you, you are completely doomed -- with honey.

Add 1 oz. of whiskey (haha, just kidding. Add at least two.)

Get your tea bag ready to do its thing.

STEP FOUR: When the water boils, immediately pour into your magic mug. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes. Remove the tea bag.

STEP FIVE: Add lemon juice to taste. Don't even think about putting that stupid cinnamon stick in there, dummy.

STEP SIX: Drink. Revive. Repeat.

Comment