Chicken soup is a homemade remedy for the common cold, a mother’s medicine and a time-honored culinary cure in just about every culture.
American television is most likely responsible for our country’s obsession with chicken noodle soup and all its variations (chicken and stars, chicken and alphabet pasta, chicken and rice). In fact, it can be found in just about any pantry in the country. Jewish mothers around the world shape large matzoh balls and carefully drop them
into a basic chicken broth, occasionally accompanied by cooked carrots. (Follow the recipe on the back of the Manischewitz Box for outstanding matzoh ball soup.) Mexican cuisine gave birth to an earthy and acidic chicken soup poured over tortilla strips and often garnished with fresh lime, cilantro and avocado. Many traditional Japanese noodle soups are based in a rich chicken stock. The Chinese swim soft little wontons in their chicken broth. The list continues — chickens are consumed in just about every nook and cranny of this great earth and their carcasses make a lovely flavoring agent for soup.
Although chicken soup has no proven medicinal qualities, it’s been making people feel better for centuries. It soothes the throat, calms the stomach, and leaves its patients feeling a little warmer inside. When you’re lying in bed with a sore throat, the only meal that seems palatable is a warm bowl of chicken soup.
Guess what folks, there’s a flu going around in New York City. (Which makes me wonder. How does an illness “go around,” affecting people throughout a major metropolitan area? Are we not washing our hands enough or is the Lower East Side a breeding ground for saliva-borne illnesses?) It’s the kind of flu that makes you feverish at night, congested all day, sore throughout, and painfully tender inside. If you or someone you know has been infected with this very contagious illness, I suggest a regular schedule of DayQuil and NyQuil and a big pot of homemade chicken soup — because trust me, this flu is fierce and keeps its victims in bed for several days.
Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Remove the roots and the greens from the leeks. Cut them in half, lengthwise. Then place them on the flat side and cut across them, every 1/4 inch. Peel the carrots, and cut them lengthwise. Place them on the flat side and cut them every quarter-inch, just like the leeks. In a large, deep pot, begin cooking the bacon over low heat. Add the butter. Once the bacon begins to release its fat, add the carrots, leeks and the salt. Mix well and cover for ten minutes. If the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and cook half way. (The pasta will continue cooking in the soup.) Drain and reserve. Once the vegetables begin to soften, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then add the chicken. Reduce to a simmer, add the pepper and let cook for 20 minutes. Add the pasta. Serve.