J-Pen, as I affectionately like to call this soup, or Jewish Penicillin, is the type of recipe that becomes habitual from years and years of exposure. Somehow, the steps and process permeate your being and, every time an inkling of a cold emerges, J-Pen is the first line of defense. In my family, each generation puts their unique imprint on the soup, but the root of the matter is always the same. For my version, I add extra immune boosters - ginger and turmeric - to add that nutrient oomph. I also take the extra step of browning the chicken, a simple albeit slightly timely step that yields a multitude of value in flavor. Browning the chicken not only locks in the juices and creates a caramelized crust on the meat, but also the browned bits in the pan add a fantastic foundation to the soup, lending depth and flavor. The finishing touch of lime, which is one of my favorite tricks learned from my Mexican co-workers during my restaurant days, provides a refreshing burst of acidity as well as a dose of Vitamin C. Although this soup is not your mother's J-Pen, it for sure will become a staple in your home on frosty nights or "under the weather" days.
Not Your Mama's J-Pen
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 3 lbs chicken, combination of skinless boneless breasts and thighs, organic and sustainably raised meat preferred
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsps ginger, peeled and minced
- 4-6 large carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 stalks celery, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 small red chili pepper, seeds removed, minced
- 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock (If I do not have homemade on hand, which is often, I use this.)
- 1 cup dill, chopped
- 2 limes, quartered
- 1/2 lb baby kale or baby spinach, preferably organic
- Sea salt and Freshly ground black pepper
- Clean, pat dry, salt and pepper the chicken. In a large pot over medium heat, warm 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Add chicken in batches, browning each side, approximately 5-8 minutes a side. Add more oil as needed between each batch. Chicken will not be cooked through. Remove chicken from pot, leaving the brown bits.
- Add another 1/2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Add the turmeric and oregano and stir, scrapping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Once the spices are toasted, about 1 minute, stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, and chili pepper. Coat vegetables with spice mixture and sauté until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Pour in vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and slowly add the chicken. Cover pot and simmer for at least an 1 hour and 1/2. When the soup is nearly done, shred any pieces of chicken that may have not fallen apart naturally.
- To serve, add a handful of kale or spinach to each bowl. Spoon soup over greens to wilt. Finish each bowl with a squirt of lime and a generous sprinkling of dill.
* I often like to add 2 peeled and chopped parsnips and one small peeled and chopped turnip to add more root veggies to the mix. If you do so, add them in at the same time you add the carrots.