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Chicken Soup for the Soul

Remember my earlier post on roast chicken? Here’s the second reason why this is one of my favorite family meals: leftovers. Depending on the size of your chicken, and the amount of veggies you cram into your pot (I play fast and loose with the recipe quantities), you can easily get another good meal out of this dish. But do you ever find yourself at the point with your chicken carcass where most of the good meat has been picked off, but there’s still enough there to do something with? There are lots of options, one of my favorites being chicken quesadillas, but when it’s cold and rainy out, and everyone’s still feeling a bit off, you can’t put anything better in your body than homemade chicken soup. 

So, here’s what you do. Pull off the rest of the good meat from the bones, maybe 1–2 cups total, and then put the chicken bones in a stockpot covered with a good amount of water (you want it completely submerged). Add some chopped up carrots and celery if you’ve got it, and maybe a quartered onion as well. Bring to a boil and then let simmer on the stove for a couple of hours at least (add more water if it’s boiling off too quickly)—even better if you do this the night before. After 2–3 hours, strain out the bones and veggies, and pour it back into a cleaned pot. Or, if you’re doing this the night before, pour it into a large bowl or quart-size tupperware containers and put in the fridge until you need it. If you do this, you can scrape the fat off that will have come to the top and hardened overnight. 

Once you’ve got your broth back in the pot, bring it to a simmer again, and then add some chopped carrots and celery. I don’t always have celery, so just carrots is fine. Let those cook for maybe 5 minutes before you add back in the chicken meat and some pasta—whatever kind you like. We’re partial to little stars here, but I’ve used everything from orzo to spirals to egg noodles. This is an excellent use of the end of a box of pasta that’s not quite enough for a whole meal. Then cook until your pasta is done. No quantities here, put in as much or as little as you like depending on how brothy you want your soup. We like our soup just this side of buttered noodles, but don’t worry, you’re still getting all that brothy goodness whether it’s absorbed by your pasta or not. 

The Fog Lifts

There is nothing like being sick for making you want to go running home and cry for your mommy. We knew it would happen—the stress of the move and living in a new city, the winter gloom here, and of course, being exposed to lots of new and wonderful germs. Just like back home, flu season has hit Paris hard, and the streets and metros are filled with people coughing and sneezing. Chuck came home a couple of weeks ago to report that everyone in his office was sick, and a few days later, guess who was holed up in bed with a terrible fever that just wouldn’t quit. Piper was the next to fall, and was home from school for three full days. (As, apparently, were a significant number of her classmates—so many that they had to delay the class picture taking to this week because so many kids were out.) I made it through nursing both of them through the worst of their illnesses, only to come down with it myself last weekend. As someone who barely ever gets sick, and rarely for more than a few days, I was not amused. And suddenly this glorious city started to feel really, really far from home. 

The thing about living here is that not only are we still figuring out the essentials (the apartment, the library, the supermarket, Indian takeout), but we’re doing it in French. Many, many people here do speak English, but I am doing my darnedest to really work on my French, so I’m trying not to rely on “Parlez-vous anglais?”. Hence spending 15 minutes trying to research cough medication, unsuccessfully, using Google Translate. But in the end, I dragged my sad little body into the pharmacie across the street and explained in my extremely hoarse voice that I needed something for tousser (coughing), and was given three “medicaments" from one of the young women there who then very sweetly wrote how many times a day I was supposed to take them on the boxes. The cough medicine is a powder that you dissolve into water, and I also got some throat lozenges and something else for the throat that appears to be a pill of some kind. But as my throat felt better with the lozenges, and the pills are still a mystery to me even with Google Translate, I am staying away from those. I’m not sure if the cough medicine is working or not, but I am feeling better, so I’ll stick with it for now. (Where is the Robitussin DM when you need it?) I’m not sure why this has surprised me so much, but it really has—there is just so little in the supermarkets, the drug stores, the papeteries (which are where they sell magazines and pen/paper supplies) that is recognizable. I guess it is my typical American belief that the rest of the world revolves around our products, and while I wouldn’t have admitted I felt like that before moving here, I’m realizing that some of that must just be ingrained in living in the same country your whole life. It does rock your world a little to realize that products that seem essential to you (foods, medicines) are obviously not, in fact, essential, because you can’t even find them in other countries! 

e© Molly Pisula 2015