By Dan St. Yves

With appointments booked and a full day of work to be conducted well into the evening, I am instead seated on a wooden barstool at my kitchen breakfast nook. My head is covered in a big fluffy blanket, and my face is as close to a boiling kettle as I can safely position it without the scalding steam loosening off my freckles.

It is winter, and I have a cold up inside my head as big as a doctor’s bank account after flu shot season.



I’m hoping this boiling kettle sauna will break up some of the lingering mucous matter pressing back up towards my eyeballs and allow the free flow of all my various passages again. I’m as clogged up as an Irish step dancing audition!

The effect of this congestion these last few days has caused my wife to phone PETA, in some considerable distress. After blowing my nose for the 80th time, I overheard her telling someone on the phone that it sounded like a Canadian goose was being strangled in our bathroom, and the murderer of said goose was obviously quite inept.

Over the years, I’ve tried nearly everything when these head colds flare up. Modern medicine has yet to craft a cure as inventive as I have conceived when I’m at my wit’s end – although in retrospect I would advise against my home remedies, as I recollect them.

As a younger man, I would mix a few crushed Tylenols into a half-cup of double-dosed Neo-Citron and add just a couple of fingers of rum for extra measure. As an older man with diabetes and theoretically well-controlled high blood pressure, I understand that I should leave those sorts of experimental amalgamations to my pharmacist, under the strict guidance of a general doctor.

The single and most pleasurable relief I can rely on in the congested grip of the winter cold season is chicken noodle soup. Not tomato, nor those high-brow mushroom blends, just good old Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, like Mom used to make. It may not be a lengthy cure, but for a few wonderful moments after consuming a bowl, my nose is damn-near dancing with joy, or more accurately, it doth finally runneth over.

There are folks who truly believe that chicken noodle soup just might possess miraculous healing powers, aside from the CEO of Campbell’s Soup, that is. Writer Kate Wickers commented in Augusta Magazine a few years back on a study by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, finding that the steaming broth of the soup actually has an anti-inflammatory effect.

There was a whole lot more scientific and/or technical stuff in that article, but to be fair, if the University Of Nebraska Medical Center tells me that chicken noodle soup eases the effects of a throbbing nasal dike, then you don’t have to tell me much more than that…pass the can opener, soup’s on!

On Campbell’s own website, their soup was actually described as “a way to soothe that nasty cold”. Could it get anymore validated than that?

I for one am always going to reach for a friendly can of delicious chicken noodle soup before I would consider even a half-teaspoon slug of Buckley’s eau-de-pine-needle juice, effective as that legendary cough syrup may be. I may be miserable when I’ve got a head cold, but I’m not suicidal.

My kettle appears to have run out of boiling water, and so in these few minutes before my passages and head begin to swell once again under the pressure of this persistent head cold, I must bid you adieu, and open another can of my winter’s amazing miracle.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Well, Dan, you might have guessed I can’t resist coming to the rescue. By now you are probably over the worst of your seasonal affliction, but seriously as soon as possible, either have someone prepare this soup, if only to boost your weakened immune system.

    When I was growing up I could not understand why chicken soup was often referred to as Jewish penicillin.
    But whatever it is or was, maybe that the chickens were all naturally free-range back in the day, meant they ate whatever happened to be available, allowing them to produce fruitful eggs, full of life-sustaining elements.

    Nonetheless, even today, experts define eggs as the only perfect food, nutritionally speaking. And of course that can support that the next best thing would be chicken soup. Especially “my” chicken soup.

    Make loads of my soup and freeze it in individual sterilized containers, and you will never again have to rely on those tins you mention that cannot help but contain preservatives and who knows what else. Here you go: God’s human healing helper soup… It really works.

    Carolyne

    -===

    CHICKEN SOUP – My Amazing Chicken Soup

    Fill a very large soup pot with cold water. Submerse the rack of bones from a whole chicken. Bring to a gentle boil, and simmer for twenty minutes. Cover and let sit on the burner.

    Prepare vegetables: wash and cut flowerets from a medium cauliflower, a medium broccoli, and chopped two cups of fresh pulled carrots.

    Chop celery sticks to fill a cup and a half. Peel two large firm potatoes. Choose potatoes that hold their firmness, not fluffy ones. Rinse and put the potatoes in a bowl of cold water.

    Open a package of frozen chopped green beans. For some reason this works better than fresh chopped green beans. Set aside a cup and a half. But the other vegetables must be fresh only.

    Split each potato in half lengthwise. Again split each half lengthwise. Then cut in strips as for French fries. Using the mound of fry shaped potato strips, chop into small cubes (less than a half inch in size). Spread the potatoes out on a board or platter and liberally salt.

    Cover potatoes immediately in cold water to which you have added a half teaspoon of white sugar. You will add the potatoes to the soup and the sugar water near the end. They cook very fast.

    Re-boil the rack of chicken bones that you have saved and froze from having chicken meals. Let boil gently for fifteen minutes. Remove the bones and keep on a large platter or in another pot.

    Strain the chicken broth into a fresh pot, to remove any small bones. Add the bits in the strainer to the bones holding pot. Using two forks, or your fingers, remove all the bits of chicken from the bones and put into the chicken broth.

    Bring broth to a gentle boil. Add one generous clove of garlic. Must do. Do not crush the garlic clove. It will poach in the broth, then mash it with a fork. Even if you don’t eat garlic. Trust me, you won’t taste it. The garlic just enhances the other flavours. Add a teaspoon of crushed dry thyme. Add a quarter teaspoon of crushed fresh rosemary. Add a tablespoon of salt. Add a few grinds of peppercorns.

    Now this next ingredient is what makes this soup unusual. At grocery stores you can buy packets of Swiss Chalet dipping sauce and gravies; you want the sauce. Prepare according to directions, but making the sauce quite thick. Stir the whole thing into the soup broth. Add a quarter cup of flavour enhancer called Maggi. These two additions are a must.

    Put all the chopped vegetables into the gently boiling broth, except the potatoes. Simmer just minutes, till cauliflower, broccoli and carrots are tender. Add potatoes. They will cook rapidly.

    Add a small chopped white onion. The onion will cook fast. Do not chop the onion ahead of time, unless you can keep it submersed in cold water. Once onion is open and exposed to air, it attracts all sorts of bacteria in the air.

    Cover and leave the soup pot on the burner, but turn off the heat. Taste to adjust salt.

    You can divide and freeze in quantities that suit. The flavour is amazing right away, but if eaten the next day, the married flavours become quite incredible.

    Alternate version: at the last minute, bring broth to a boil, and add two chopped fresh red tomatoes and a handful of fresh spinach leaves. The spinach will just wilt perfectly.

    Alternate two: add two cups of par boiled macaroni elbows and or a cup of tinned kidney beans with their juice. And you have wonderful homemade minestrone soup. You can also add tiny fresh uncooked meatballs. They will cook quickly in the broth.

    Now for the piece de resistance: make sure soup is very very hot. To each individual serving. add a “slice” of individually plastic wrapped cheese; yes, the kind that isn’t real cheese completely. Stir into the cup of hot liquid. The cheese slice will melt and turn the broth a little creamy. Completely blend by stirring well.

    If serving several, segment soup into a smaller pot, using a large soup ladle (don’t have a large ladle? use a ceramic coffee mug), and reheat and stir in one cheese slice for each serving. Stir well to incorporate.

    I have been told by people who eat this soup that it is the best they have ever eaten. I think so, too. ENJOY! In all seasons of the year, with toast or buttered warm rolls. Or serve with fresh homemade buttered plain bread. It’s truly an amazing eating treasure!

    Keep some soup in the freezer for reheating for someone who is under the weather. Or just for a treat to thaw out your body after a cold rainy weather walk.

    Packs well to reheat at work, or take in a thermos container to the office.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: if you cannot buy the packets of sauce, use “my” ‘Spectacular barbecue serving sauce;’ not exactly a replica of the store bought chicken version, but will work almost as well.

    Alternate to chicken soup: Beef soup is terrific, too.

    You can make a similar soup by braising stewing beef on all sides, in browned butter, until fork tender. Let the pot really brown but careful not to burn. Salt, pepper, and sprinkle with just a little garlic salt. Do not flour.

    Remove the beef chunks and cut into small bite size pieces, using a very sharp knife. Deglaze pan with a full flavoured red wine. Nothing sweet on the palate. Use about two full cups of wine. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce just a little.

    Add several cups of homemade beef or chicken broth. Keep some in the freezer for just this purpose. Prepare and add the chicken dipping sauce packet mix, or a full container of restaurant bought brand chicken dipping sauce. Add the Maggi.

    Add the beef back into the Dutch oven or large soup pot after the vegetables are cooked, just before serving, or freezing to store..

    You might choose not to add the cheese slices to the beef soup. It’s a personal thing. Good to the last drop, of course.

    BUT, yet another alternate: you might choose to prepare this version of the beef soup…

    In a cold naked skillet, cover the skillet in a thin layer of “cream of wheat” (cereal) grains. Turn heat on medium high. Don’t walk away from the stove. Gently shake the skillet, or use an egg turner backwards and move the grains around in the pan. Toast just lightly. But note, if you want a very brown, quite different taste, toast the grains till they are just not quite burned. Each level of brownness presents a very different taste.

    Add the hot grains to the hot soup pot, just before serving. CAREFUL: the grains are very hot and try to mimic a little volcanic-like explosion in the soup pot. Just add a little bit of the grains initially. Stir and serve. You will be absolutely amazed the wonderful flavour that the grains bring to the soup. This is an old European standby. But wherever you come from, you will certainly enjoy the flavours.

    ADD-ON

    In a separate small bowl, combine 4 room temperature egg yolks with a half-cup of red port wine. Gently add the egg-port to hot, not boiling, soup being careful not to let the eggs coagulate; you don’t want the eggs to curdle. You can temper the eggs first, ideally, just to be cautious. The addition of the port-enhanced egg yolks will thicken the liquid a little differently than cream. To make the soup extra creamy, add in and stir to melt, gobs of double-cream Brie just when ready to serve.

    Instead of regular croutons, top with thick cubes of toasted, buttered, black-olive bread. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve very hot. Or cover with puff pastry and bake in individual servings, till pastry is just puffed. Sprinkle with a little minced fresh rosemary. Or perhaps just place a full twig on top as a decoration when serving. It smells wonderful.

    Hint crossover: You could apply this egg-yolk technique from my French Onion Soup ~ English Style, to a chicken broth based vegetable soup, turning it into a wonderful instant creamy soup. The addition of the port-egg yolks and the Brie makes for an amazing texture and flavour enhancer.

    Check out my French Onion Soup ~ English Style. Again, you won’t be disappointed, Dan.

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

    • Wow! Thanks for the detailed response Carolyne – and it does sound even better than the feature reads – well done! Look like I may have to expand my culinary horizons to give this a try….farewell can opener!

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