My mom’s chicken soup

I can feel the onset of the flu just in back of my nasal passages, a little heaviness in my cranium, a little tickling in my throat. I’ve taken my usual preventative measures: drank the Airborne and sucked on the Cold-EEZE. I thought yesterday that I’d get through unscathed but alas, severe nighttime swelling in my daughter’s lymph nodes made for a stiff neck for her and little sleep for mom and dad.

And so, deprived of sleep, my immune system has rolled over to the flu. It’s time for Mom’s Chicken Soup. Now, my mom grew up on the streets of Cebu, Philippines, so I’m gonna bet it’s not like your mom’s. Despite being so poor she had to sell bread rolls called pan de sal on the street, she never learned how to cook–or at least my dad says so. He tells this funny story about when they first married she couldn’t fry an egg, that she burned a pot of water to the point of no return.

But she cooks like a fiend now. Don’t know how, don’t know when, but something clicked and she makes some of the best Guamanian and Filipino food around. Well, not around here, but back on Guam. ANYWAY, the point is, she doesn’t do recipes. She doesn’t follow them, she doesn’t make them. 

So, this is my mom’s chicken soup, or at least my version of it:

Cut up however much fresh onion, ginger and garlic as you can stand in your soup. This is the stuff that makes you feel better, so go for the gusto. Use other herbs if you want to. Tonight, I used some thyme that was just north of going bad. My mom adds bok choy or any similar big-leafy green that can be used in soups. Add those greens at the very end, though.

Take some chicken; it can be frozen, it can be fresh. If it’s frozen, it’s going to take longer to cook. You can use whatever part you like; I’m partial to wings and thighs.

Put the herbs and chicken in a pot and pour in some chicken stock. If you want a lot of soup, use a lot of stock. If you don’t, just get it to the level that it’s about an inch above the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to underseason at the beginning, taste it in the middle and check it once more at the end.

Cover the pot with a lid and turn your stove to high heat. When the soup starts to boil, turn it to low and keep it on a gentle simmer until the chicken’s done. With chicken wings, that’s about 15 minutes; for thighs, about 20. I use that time for frozen or fresh.  If you’re worried about whether it’s done, pull one of the pieces out and cut it open. If it’s pink and bleeding, it’s not done.

If you’re going to add the bok choy, do so after you’ve turned off the stove. Then keep the lid on for 5 more minutes; that’ll wither the greens nicely. Serve immediately. 

That’s my mom’s chicken soup. I’m going to go eat some now.


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