Pray that I never serve you my chicken soup.
It's not that I make bad chicken soup – on the contrary. I craft mine with love, care, a whole roasted chicken, homemade stock, fresh herbs and meticulously prepared, in-season vegetables. It is, by all accounts, pretty spectacular and soothing stuff.
It's good for what ails you - and that's the problem. If I'm making this soup for you, things are not going well in your world, and it's the only way I can think to help. I'm not a physician, therapist, social worker, lawyer or member of the clergy. I can, however, feed you right now and leave a batch of it the freezer so later, when I'm not around you can serve yourself a good, solid, home-cooked meal without having to think too much about it.
Chop, chop, baste, stir. If you want, you can sit at the kitchen table so we can talk while I'm working, or you can go put your feet up and zone out, nap, or head out to spend time with the person over whom you've been so worried. Take your time. When you're ready, dinner will be waiting.
Kat's Crisis Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken
Fill a large pot 2/3 with water and heat burner to medium. Roughly chop 1-2 carrots (no need to peel) and add to the pot with several celery stalks and half a large peeled onion or a whole medium onion, cut in two. Add a fistful of kosher salt, a bay leaf and several sprigs of thyme (if you're using that).
Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut the backbone from the chicken and add it to the pot. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the temperature, cover, and let the contents simmer.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 425°F, making sure that the racks are placed so a chicken in a roasting pan fits comfortably in the middle of the oven.
In a food processor, blender or using a fork in a bowl, blend together olive oil, several tablespoons of kosher salt, 2-3 cloves of garlic, as many fresh herbs as you'd like, the juice of the lemon, and slices of the rind until it forms a slurry. Rub this under the chicken's skin, as well as over the entire outside.
Spread open the chicken like a book, skin side up, and place on a rack in a roasting pan, or lay the chicken over several horizontally-placed celery stalks in the pan. Place in oven and baste with pan juices as needed.
When skin is distinctly golden brown and crispy, lower the heat to 350°F and continue to monitor and baste until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F at the thickest part, but without touching any bones.
Once you've lowered the temperature, on racks above and below the chicken, slide in sheets of chopped vegetables you've brushed with pan drippings. Butternut squash, cauliflower, corn and broccoli all work well in this soup. Roast until softened and browned.
Serve whatever parts of the chicken you'd like (along with any of the vegetables), removing the meat from the carcass.
Remove the skin from the uneaten portions and discard. Place the leftover meat, bones and vegetables in the stock pot, add in any leafy vegetables (kale works well) and simmer for an hour until flavors meld.
Remove from the heat and once the soup has cooled enough, remove the celery, carrots, onion halves, bay leaf and bones, skim the fat from the top, then refrigerate the rest for a few hours or overnight.
Heat individual portions on the stove top or in the microwave and freeze in individual containers for later use.
Note: Spices like star anise, coriander, smoked paprika and others add a distinctive flavor note to the soup and can be added at any stage.
Got a food ritual you share with friends and family who are feeling down? Please share it in the comments below.