It has become a holiday ritual that is almost as predictable as the ball dropping in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The holidays end, and one of us gets sick. It was my turn this year. We had a fine and festive Christmas with the young marrieds, cooked and ate and repeated the process surely more than three times a day, if my snug waistbands are any true indicator of the epicurean pleasures we experienced. And now the holidays are over, and we have all of 2020 to consider – Leap Year and all.
I guess we partied a little too hearty. My cold has mushroomed into massive congestion, sneezing and coughing. There are multiple Kleenex boxes in every room of the house. I am not a pleasant sight, just a noisy series of barking coughs and wet sniffles.
Imagine what the our homecoming was like for poor Luke the wonder dog, newly sprung from the kennel, as he tied the apron bow, and got out the cookbooks so he could make some chicken soup to hurry my healing process. He’s such a good dog. This is a reminder to be kind to our faithful companions! And since we can’t teach an old dog new tricks, luckily for us, Luke knows his way around the kitchen. These are the words that he dictated to me, as he stood on the stool, chopping vegetables and measuring out cups of rice, listening to The Splendid Table, where he has garnered a surprising breadth of culinary knowledge.
“A word to the wise: you are going to need chicken soup sooner or later this winter. And, no, it will never taste as good as your mother’s. It will ward off the flu, and will ease the aches and pains of that miserable head cold. And soon, you will feel right as rain.” (I wonder if it is only Luke who is partial to clichés or if all dogs are prone, like food writers?)
I can see Maurice Sendak will hovering behind Luke, proudly, as he measures out the rice. And soon we will be slipping on the sliding ice, sipping our own chicken soup with rice. Maybe Luke will end up with Max and the Wild Things, stirring soup on a well-drawn pen and ink stove.
Homemade Chicken Stock
1 deboned chicken carcass, including skin
OR 1 whole chicken (do not give the poor dog a bone, no matter how eloquent he is, or how mournfully he looks at you)
6 quarts water
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1. Use a large stock pot, and add butter and chicken over medium heat. Brown them a little bit.
2. Add all the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil.
3. Boil for 3 minutes, then turn heat down to low.
4. Cover, and simmer for about 3-4 hours, stirring every once in a while.
5. Once it’s a golden color, strain and let cool. Put in the refrigerator overnight, then skim the fat off the top.
Chicken Soup (not completely homemade – but sometimes a dog is on deadline and life has to go on)
Half an onion, minced
2 carrots, finely diced
A sprig of fresh thyme, or a few shakes of dried
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup uncooked, long grain rice (or, if you are a noodle family, have your wicked way with them)
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.
2. Add onion and carrot, and sauté until soft, 5-7 minutes.
3. Add bay leaf, thyme, and chicken broth, and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce to a simmer and add rice and chicken.
5. Let soup bubble, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
Note from Luke:
This will be much better than Lipton’s Chicken Noodle dried-powder and freeze-dried chicken bits! And certainly better than Campbell’s. Have you ever looked at those pinkish chicken nubbins? Well, you were probably feverish and anything warm was going to do the trick.
And now, thanks to Luke, you have a nice, comforting stash of stock in your freezer, and you are ready for that rainy, sneezy, sniffling, no-good, terrible day. I remember the glory days, back in elementary school, when I could stay home, bundled up on the sofa with a blanket, a pillow, a box of Kleenex and jelly glass of ginger ale with a bent paper straw. I reveled in spending a feverish day napping in front of the black and white TV. If you are lucky when you succumb to this year’s stay-home-from-school cold maybe Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show will be on YouTube someplace. Or you can catch up with Season Three of The Crown!
Luke has taken good care of me. Mr. Friday has gone back to the serenity of his office, and I am tottering around the house starting to take the Christmas decorations down. But later this afternoon, Luke and I are going to curl up on the sofa, catching up on the Christmas movies we were too busy to watch last week. Happy New Year!
“If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater suggest that he wear a tail.”