Thursday, March 17, 2011

For the Soul and the Body: Ginger Chicken Soup

We've all been a little under the weather here lately.  I. brings home germs from school, so despite our "newborn quarantine," we've had the full gamut of the standard winter cold: sore throat, hacking cough, postnasal drip, stuffy nose (we had the stomach virus going around quite some time ago, too; at least we seem to have escaped Scarlet Fever, which made an appearance at I.'s school).  Luckily, S. had the foresight to make a batch of chicken soup and freeze it before N. was born.

Chicken soup happens to be one of the few things on which S. and I fundamentally disagree.  He likes it, I could take it or leave it.  He prefers it as a stew (chock full of egg noodles and parsnips and carrots and dark chicken bits), and I prefer it as a thin broth (flavored with things like scallions and garlic).  He prefers it speedily pressure cooked, I prefer it simmered for hours.  When he was considering making one to freeze, he thumbed through some our recipe books in the interest of compromise, and ended up with a more Asian variation on the usual theme.  It was a nice gesture.

In general, S. is a pretty thoughtful husband, even if he doesn't read my mind as well as I wish he would.  But I miss being a couple sometimes.  I wouldn't trade having children for anything.  I am completely smitten with my adorable four year old son, and I suspect that the same will happen with N.  But there was a time when I used to talk with S. for hours on the phone.  When we would go hiking together, or go out to dinner and gaze at the candlelight in each others' eyes.  When kissing him took my breath away.  Now, even before N. arrived, there is so much to do that we forget to do those other things; we're sort of in survival mode.  I just hope that eventually, when the smoke clears, we will remember again.  Esperanza wrote recently about the importance of remembering now; perhaps, even if it's not candlelight dinners, we can begin to carve out time that is ours, and that doesn't involve us both typing away on our computers, in our own little worlds, less than five feet away from each other, in the few stolen moments between feedings and diaperings and naps and Legos and bath supervision.  I think the same applies even if you don't have children; to me, infertility treatments seem about as draining on a relationship as having a newborn.

In the meantime, there is chicken soup.  For the body and soul.

Homey Ginger Chicken Soup

9 c. water
1 whole 3- to 3½ pound chicken, fat trimmed and cut into 10 or 12 pieces
1 c. rice wine or sake
6 slices fresh ginger, each the size of a quarter, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
6 whole scallions, ends trimmed, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
1 small head Chinese cabbage (preferably Napa) (about 1½ lbs.)
1 t. canola or corn oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
2 T. additional rice wine or sake
½ lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, and cut into quarters
2 oz. bean threads (cellophane noodles), softened in hot water to cover (if unavailable, substitute 1/3 lb. thin rice noodles or vermicelli, softened in warm water to cover)
2 T. salt
more fresh scallions (optional)

Prepare the Classic Chicken Broth by putting the water with the chicken, rice wine or sake, ginger slices, and scallions in a large pot and bringing to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1½ hours . Remove the chicken pieces and skim the broth to remove any impurities.

Using a sharp knife, cut away the stem of the cabbage and discard. Cut the cabbage in half and cut the leaves into 2-inch squares, separating the leafy sections from the tough ones. Place the cabbage sections in a bowl. Set by the stove with the shiitake mushrooms.

Heat a Dutch oven or casserole, add the oil, and heat until very hot. Add the garlic cloves and the harder sections of the cabbage and stir-fry over high heat about 1 minute. Add the rice wine or sake, cover, and continue cooking about 5 minutes, until tender. Add the leafier sections, the shiitake mushrooms, and the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 20 minutes uncovered.

Drain the bean threads and cut them into 4-inch lengths. Add them to the soup and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the soup and stir in the salt. Ladle into soup bowls and serve. I think this would be even better with some fresh scallions cut in at the end.
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  1. I share your husband's feelings about chicken soup.

    It's my experience that a couple is actually 3 entities: 2 people and the relationship. In a healthy couple, all three are tended equally over time. When a fourth entity is introduced, a child, an illness in the family, etc, that fourth entity takes up a majority share of the attention, generally at the expense of the primary caregiver and the relationship. Over time the balance of attention needs to be restored or something is going to fail.

  2. afterword: S. came home today from a business trip. I. was still at school and we went for a walk, holding hands. It was ... really nice. :)

  3. Such good advice about living in the now. Sometimes infertility seems like an actual person living in our house. An unwanted guest that has overstayed their welcome. Good advice!

  4. I am just starting to enjoy that now time, our house fells less and less like there is an elephant in it that everyone is trying to ignor, i should lap it up while it lasts as i'm sure once Cookie arrieves some of the stress will return.
    take care

  5. Since my son was born, my husband and I have been passing ships in the night (and day!) We really need to connect again. I miss him. My mum also makes the best chicken soup and like you Justine she loves to boil the chicken over a long period. Her recipe is a classic Greek spin with lemon and oregano. However I love yours and will definitely give it a go considering Autumn has approached Oz.

  6. Sorry to hear about the onslaught of the sicks (and scarlet fever!?!? glad that one did not make an appearance in your house). That chicken soup sounds yummy - I'm a huge believer in it healing a lot of what ails us.

    (Glad you got that walk and you're right. It's important to make time for those things).

  7. The soup sounds yummy - and was probably even yummier as you didn't have to make it (and because the hubbie found a compromise recipe). My husband can't *cook* at all; he can *reheat*. So yes, I've got carrot soup in the freezer (a sort of Asiany one made with white belgian carrots).

  8. My only preference on soup for when I'm sick is that my mom has to make it cause she inserts special healing powers into the broth.

  9. That soup looks really delicious and soul-filling. I hope it cured what ailed you physically and from a relationship standpoint gave you nourishment.

  10. I need me some of this. I'm going to show it to hubby and see if he can whip some up.


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