So this past weekend my husband went off for a three-day manstravaganza with several of his buddies – he and two of his best friends have milestone birthdays this year (30, 40, and 50) and they decided to have a big celebratory get-together. There were nine guys total, from all over the globe (I mean that literally – while some flew in from Colorado and Kentucky, one guy came over from Guam and another took a break from his job in Antarctica to come be a part of this faux-bachelor weekend), all happily grilling, drinking, and playing Disc-golf, when the unthinkable happened - one by one, they all fell victim to the norovirus.
Anyone who has ever been married, had a serious boyfriend, or even just been really good friends with a guy will know that they do not handle these things well. The strongest man will become the most pitiable little boy when laid low by a stomach virus. Picture nine of them in a house with no women, no clue, and no medicine (gin and tonic doesn’t count) – I am so glad I wasn’t there (although I felt awful about my poor husband being laid out sick two hours away and me unable to do anything about it). I am also glad I am not the wife of the guy whose house they were at – not something I’d want to come home to, if you know what I mean. On the same token, maybe it’s karma – when the outbreak started amongst the guys, it was revealed that the whole family of the guy whose house it was (the only guy who didn’t come down with it this weekend) had it four days before, but somehow that little tidbit of information never came up before the get-together. It would have been nice to know, especially since the guys were sleeping in the kids’ beds and using the kids’ bathroom and basically living in the heart of the prior weekend’s vomitorium.*
Anyway, my 6-foot tall, 195-pound husband lost ten pounds in three days, missed two days of work, and still isn’t quite back to normal. He managed to drag himself home Sunday, and to aid in his recovery I went out and bought Gatorade, ginger tea, mint tea, four liters of ginger ale, and all the makings for homemade chicken noodle soup, which is kind of the roundabout reason for this post. I thought I’d share, just in case anyone else ever felt the urge to stuff a loved one with hearty, healthy, rejuvenating soup (it’s the only thing TBear could keep down for days, so I must be doing something right):
Homemade Chicken Soup (for the Body, not the Soul)
For the stock:
5-lb whole chicken (with or without skin – I usually remove the skin from the body and leave it on the legs and wings)
12 c. water
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
ends and leavings from the rest of the vegetables cut up for the soup
For the soup:
4 large carrots, cut into 1/2″ chunks
4 parsnips, cut into 1/2″ chunks
2 turnips, cut into 1/2″ chunks
3 ribs of celery, cut into chunks
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half, rinsed well, and sliced into 1/4″ slices
2 onions, cut into 1/2″ chunks
1 bunch of parsley or just the parsley stems, tied together
3 – 4 cups of wide egg noodles (measure before cooking)
leafy dark greens – I used kale, swiss chard, and spinach, about 1/3 lb total (it looks like a lot but shrinks down to almost nothing in the soup)
1/2 c chopped fresh dill
Place chicken in large stockpot, add water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 30 – 35 minutes. Remove chicken from pot, remove skin (if any), strip meat from bones, cut into bite-size pieces, and reserve in fridge to be added back to the soup later. Add chicken bones back to water in stockpot, add garlic and any leftover vegetable ends (I threw in an old bell pepper, the celery tops and ends, the carrot ends, half a red onion that had seen better days, turnip ends, parsnip ends, the dark green tops of the leek, etc – all of this will be strained out later but adds flavor and depth to the stock during the cooking process, so take this opportunity clean out your vegetable drawers without feeling like you’re throwing food away). Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 1/2 hours, skimming top occasionally to remove fat or impurities if needed, stirring occasionally.
Strain your stock to get out the bones and vegetable pieces – I saved the bones and assorted flotsam in a separate bowl because I ended up needing more liquid, so I was able to pour hot water over the bones and veg, let it sit for a few minutes, and strain out to get ‘stock’ flavor in my added liquid. Put stock (minus all the stuff you strained out, of course) back in stockpot, add carrots, parsnips, turnips, onion, leek, and parsley, and let simmer 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water in a separate pot, about two minutes less than package directions (cooking the noodles separately keeps them from hogging all the moisture in your soup, but undercooking them slightly leaves them able to absorb flavor and not disintegrate once in the soup), drain. After the 15 minute soup simmer is done, remove parsley/stems, add noodles, dill, leafy greens, and reserved chicken, and heat through (see beginning of this paragraph if you need additional liquid – you can use my method or just add some canned chicken broth). Serve immediately.
Sorry I don’t have a picture, but this is a very hearty, chunky soup that is nonetheless very delicately flavored and not overly rich. It’s an easily-digested powerhouse of nutrition for an under-the-weather loved one or just a comforting pick-me-up on a dreary winter day. Everyone in my family and extended family loves it and I think they secretly pray for someone to get sick just so I’ll go to the trouble of making it…
* I don’t want to give the impression that this is a dirty family – the mom keeps a crazy-clean house, and I know she probably scrubbed every inch of every surface. I certainly wouldn’t have thought a stomach virus could live through either a thorough cleaning or several days of waiting – I can’t even tell you how surprised I was when I looked up the norovirus and found out it can live in carpets and linens for TWELVE DAYS even when they’ve been washed with normal detergent – household cleaners won’t clean it from hard surfaces, either. This thing is a beast – the only thing that touches it is concentrated bleach solution. Yeesh.