Recipe: Pantry Penicillin
Travel. There is nothing quite so magical as getting on an airplane and waking up in a whole new place, perhaps an exotic foreign adventure, or as my family does each summer, going “home” to our little country farmhouse in Connecticut.
But let’s be honest. Travel takes its toll on our bodies, starting with jet lag and ending, all too often, with a case of what’s known as “traveler’s tummy.” You know the feeling: unsettled, queasy and sometimes downright ill, making you question all those lovely foods you enjoyed on your holiday. When you feel like that, there’s nothing you want more than to curl up with a hot water bottle and a cat.
What can you do to feel better?
Before you reach for a bottle of pink liquid or a box of pills, let me give you my sovereign recipe for a big steaming bowl of recovery. Of course you’ll want to wait until the worst is over, when the idea of putting something in that delicate tummy starts to sound feasible.
This soup starts, as all the best soups do, with homemade chicken stock, the main ingredient for what’s known as Jewish Penicillin. Some of you are already well-aware of my devotion to good, homemade stock. As soon as you know you can safely have a bite of something, buy a large organic chicken and four extra boneless chicken breast fillets. Cut the breasts from the whole chicken and set them aside with the others. Place the rest of the whole chicken in a roasting dish on top of a couple of big branches of rosemary and thyme, and surround it with unpeeled carrots, onions, and garlic. Roast at 425F/220C for two hours. Place everything from the roasting dish into a large (at least 8-quart) stockpot and cover with cold water, plus an extra two inches of water for good measure. Pick up a bottle of “digestif” spirits (brandy, Armagnac, Cognac) and add a good glug, glug, glug. Sprinkle over about as much sea salt as will fit in the cup of your hand. Simmer strongly for at least three hours, then strain through a colander into a fresh pot.
Now you’re ready for the REAL medicinal ingredients. Believe it or not, I invented this soup by simply listening to my instincts about what my delicate digestion wanted, and lo and behold, the finished product is a virtual medicine chest of ingredients! Several of the ingredients my body was naturally craving (specifically ginger, lemongrass and mint) have been used to aid in digestion, and to cleanse and purify the digestive tract since the beginning of recorded history (really!). The end result was very similar to “larb,” a delicious Thai dish.
(makes about 8 servings)
6 chicken breast fillets
3/4 -1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (gluten-free if your tummy doesn’t like wheat)
1+ cups milk
Garlic and onion powder
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
Cure-All Chicken Soup
6 quarts fresh chicken stock
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 golf ball-sized chunk fresh ginger root, grated
6 cloves garlic, minced
Generous splash Thai fish sauce
Sea salt to taste
Steamed basmati rice, for serving
Trim the chicken completely of all fat and membranes. Cut in large chunks and place in food processor. Blitz gently, on the “pause” feature, until the texture of ground beef has been achieved. Err on the side of leaving the chicken too coarsely chopped rather than chopping it too fine, as too fine will result in a grainy texture.
Mix the chicken with the breadcrumbs and milk. The amount of crumbs and milk needed will depend on the size of the breast fillets, so aim for a mixture that is as loose as it possibly can be and still be formed into balls.
Bring the chicken stock to a high simmer. Form the chicken mixture into golf ball-size balls and drop them gently into the stock, trying not to pile them onto each other.
Sprinkle all the remaining ingredients into the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Ladle 2-3 meatballs per person into a deep bowl of basmati rice and cover with the herby stock.
Now, draw up around the table, bend your head down to breathe in the magical amalgam of flavors that this broth contains. Pick up your spoon and smile to yourself, knowing you can safely leave home again, travel to faraway lands, and then come home to a bowl of pure comfort.
What’s your favorite homecooked remedy recipe?
Photo Credit: Avery Curran
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