J-Pen, as I affectionately like to call this soup, or Jewish Penicillin, is the type of recipe that has becomes habitual from years and years of exposure. Somehow, the steps and process permeate my 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 to 3 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 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps ginger, peeled and minced
6 large carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
4 stalks celery, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 large parsnips, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small red chili pepper, seeds removed, minced (can sub in red pepper flakes)
8 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
Sea salt and Freshly ground black pepper
On a plate, pat the chicken dry. Salt and pepper both sides. In a large pot (at least 7 qts) over medium heat, warm 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the 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. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving the brown bits.
Add another 1 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 30 seconds, stir in the onion, garlic, ginger. Coat in spices and cook for 5 minutes. Next add in the carrots, celery, parsnips, and chili pepper. Continue to coat the vegetables with spice mixture and sauté for 5 minutes more. Add the chicken and continue to mix everything together.
Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Partially cover pot, and continue to simmer for at least an 1 hour and 1/2 to 2 hours.
When the soup is nearly done, remove chicken and shred with two forks. Add back to the soup.
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.