Valentine’s is our busy season and I’ve been under the weather. No good. How can we be Culinary Cupids—and cook for a sold-out crowd at Macy’s DeGustibus Cooking School— if I’m coughing and congested and about to do faceplant into a pot of quinoa (*The quinoa is Parker’s requested dinner… I know, we’re in trouble.)
This is where chicken soup and a chef husband enter the picture. While the man would rather watch back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey than play nurse (he is not a fan of Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville) he can whip up a meal that’s even better than the doctor would order.
So this is his chicken soup– with an edge. The quickly poached breast meat is shredded and then tossed with a homemade spinach/basil pesto. This is added to the warm, soothing broth at the very end. It’s like the maraschino cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae… The pile of whipped cream on the brownie pie… The tequila floater on the jalapeno marg… But, really, it’s even better.
- 2-3 lb chicken
- 2 carrots, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- medium yellow onion
- 2 pieces of celery cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- 1 head garlic, cut in half
- 2 branches fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- water, approximately 10 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- cup carrots, diced
- cup celery, diced
- medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup short grain rice
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- cup olive oil
- cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Clean any gizzards from the inside of the chicken and rinse the cavity with cool water. Pat dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper, inside and out. Place the chicken in large pot, add enough water to cover and add the large pieces of carrot, onion, celery and garlic. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat and season the water to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and cook at a simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Strain the remaining liquid in the pot and reserve.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté until tender. Add the garlic and continue cooking until aromatic. Add the rice and stir to coat with vegetables and oil. Add 8 cups of the reserved chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until the rice tender, about 30 minutes.
- While the rice is simmering, combine the spinach, basil and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the olive oil and parmesan cheese. Pick the meat from the chicken and discard the bones and skin. Add the cleaned meat to the bowl with the spinach and basil.
- When the rice is tender, stir the chicken mixture into the pot, return to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.