Everyone knows that chicken soup is a healthy meal during the cold winter months. It may not cure a cold, but it can surely alleviate some of the symptoms, offering relief as well as being soul-warming and delicious.

Chicken soup has earned the name "Jewish penicillin" for good reason. It has anti-inflammatory benefits that hinder the white blood cells that trigger sore throats and puff the cells in the nasal passage. The protein from the chicken thins mucus, letting you cough it out. The carrots have beta-carotene that helps prevent and fight off infection, and onions contain an antioxidant called quercetin that acts as an antihistamine. The chicken stock itself contains a great deal of amino acids for building muscle and maintaining cartilage and tendons, as well as promoting healthy hair and skin. The gelatin in stock acts as a digestive aid by preventing the buildup of too much acid in the digestive tract. Stock is also a good source of calcium, and keeps your body hydrated.

The following recipes give an Asian spin on what could have been a boring meal. The ginger and garlic add extra nutritional benefits and a major boost of flavor. Leftover chicken or shredded rotisserie makes for a quick add in, and feel free to add any combination of cooked vegetables.

Homemade chicken stock is always the best option (recipe below), but in a pinch, cartons of stock (not broth) can be substituted and found in the soup aisle of the grocery store.

 

Egg Drop Soup with Chicken

• 4 cups chicken stock

• 1 tablespoon sesame oil

• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or grated

• 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root*

• 2 tablespoons soy sauce

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Lemon juice, to taste

• 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1 cup cooked shredded chicken

• 2 green onions, sliced

 

1. In a soup pot, bring chicken stock, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Season well to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and lemon juice.

2. Stir together the cornstarch and water until well dissolved. While whisking the soup, stir in the cornstarch slurry and return to a simmer. The soup will not thicken until it boils.

3. Reduce the heat to medium low and very slowly pour the eggs into the soup. Stir gently. The eggs with spread out and cook in ribbons.

4. Remove from heat and stir in chicken and green onions. Serve immediately.

*Fresh ginger: use a spoon to peel a piece of ginger about the size of the tip of your thumb. Grate with a zester or fine grater.

 

Coconut Mushroom Tom Yum Gai Soup with Chicken

• 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

• 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised or 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste

• 2 inches ginger, peeled and grated

• 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems reserved and caps sliced thinly

• 3 tablespoons fish sauce

• 1 tablespoon soy sauce

• 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, stems reserved and leaves chopped roughly

• Olive, for cooking the vegetables

• 1/2 onion, peeled and minced

• 4 cloves garlic, pressed or peeled and grated

• 1/2 Thai chili, sliced thinly

• 1 teaspoon brown sugar

• 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

• Sriracha hot sauce

• Lime juice, to taste

• 2 cups cooked shredded chicken

 

1. Place the stock in a sauce pan with the lemongrass, ginger, mushroom stems, fish sauce, soy sauce and cilantro stems. Bring to a simmer and reduce to low to keep warm.

2. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add oil to the pan. Once hot, add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

5. Strain the stock mixture into the pot. Add the sliced chili and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes.

6. Reduce the heat to low and add the coconut milk.

7. Season the soup to taste with kosher salt or soy sauce, Sriracha, and lime juice. Stir in shredded chicken and garnish the finished soup with the cilantro leaves.

 

Homemade Chicken Stock

• 4-6 pounds bone-in chicken, cut up

• 2 onions, peeled and quartered

• 1 celery stalk, cut into chunks

• 1 carrot, scrubbed and cut into chunks

• 2 cloves garlic, cut in half

• 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

• 1 bay leaf

• 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

• 2-3 fresh parsley stems

• 3-4 quarts cold water

 

1. In a large, tall pot, combine all ingredients and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer, and cook for 4-6 hours. Skim throughout the cooking process, removing fat and scum. All ingredients can also be simmered overnight in a slow cooker.

2. Strain stock through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Cool as quickly as possible: fill gallon-size freezer bags with the strained stock, seal, and submerge in a sink full of ice water. Use immediately, or freeze in individual zip-top bags or in ice cube trays for easy access.

Tips:

• If using uncooked frozen meat or bones, first cover in water, bring to a boil, and drain off water. Add remaining ingredients and fresh water, and make stock as usual.

• Do not stir or cover the stock while cooking or allow to rapidly boil; this can release impurities and bitterness.

• Chicken and vegetables can also be roasted before stock-making for deeper color and flavor. Toss chicken pieces with a little oil. Roast in a 425 degree oven in a baking dish for about 15 minutes. Add vegetables and continue roasting for another 30 minutes.

Season Stepp can be reached at season28@aol.com.