Jewish Penicillin--The Essential Chicken Soup Recipe
Note: This hub was written in response to nifwlseirff's question, "What are your favourite and essential ingredients in chicken soup?"
When my family moved to Austin from our small hometown in February, 1974, the first thing my mother did was to find a pediatrician to deal with the colds and flu that we kids came down with immediately upon crossing the Austin city limits. Maurice Cohn was recommended as “wonderful”, and so Mom took us to see him about our persistent coughs and congestion. Dr. Cohn, with his warm, comforting manner, checked us out, then prescribed a couple of over-the-counter remedies to help us sleep more comfortably and soothe our coughs. “What will help the most, though, is chicken soup”, he said. Mom, who’d been making chicken soup for years, wanted specifics—what kind of chicken soup would help heal us? Dr. Cohn’s eyes twinkled and said, “Well, here’s my mother’s recipe—she called it Jewish penicillin!”
It’s pretty simple, actually. What makes it Jewish penicillin is one particular ingredient that isn’t immediately noticeable—until your sinuses suddenly open up and you lunge for the tissues, and you realize that you can now breathe for the first time since you became ill. Here’s a basic chicken soup recipe, but you can use pretty much any chicken soup—even canned—and add the magic ingredient to achieve maximum healing power.
Jewish Penicillin Chicken Soup (based on the Basic Chicken Soup recipe at Food.com)
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut in half
2-3 celery stalks, cut in half
1 small onion, quartered
1 bunch fresh parsley or cilantro, tied into a small bouquet
3-4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coarse salt
The Magic Ingredient: 1-2 tablespoons of white pepper
Place chicken breasts in large pot. Add carrots, turnip, celery and onion. Cover with cold water, making sure everything is submerged and that there is enough water to stir easily and simmer freely.
Add remaining ingredients. Heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for an hour or until chicken is cooked through. Taste for seasonings, adding more white pepper as needed. Once chicken is cooked, pour soup through a strainer into another pot and place strained ingredients on a plate to cool.
Once cool, pull skin off chicken and remove meat from the bone. Cut or shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Cut up carrots and celery if desired and add to broth. Add cooked rice or noodles if desired and adjust seasonings.
That’s it. Simple, healthy goodness, with a dose of head- and chest-opening aromatics and the magic white pepper that makes all the difference. If you freeze it, do so without the rice or noodles—you can add those later after you’ve thawed it. Enjoy!