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TODAY

Monday, December 18

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Airbags

Just as I dusted off the barbecue tools, the temperature dropped to November levels and I got one of those wonderful colds that seems to plague people at this time of year. I'm hoping that I'll be better in a few days when the weather warms up to "seasonal." To fight this cold I've pulled out all the stops. Cough syrup: check. Asprin: check. Orange juice: check. Jewish chicken soup: check.

Now I've made chicken soup before, but I've never made chicken soup like this before. A wonderful Jewish friend from New York shared her grandmother's recipe with me the last time she came to Chicago. And it was my kind of recipe—vague and approximate measurements that focus more on technique than specific measurements. And there were a couple ingredients in the recipe that I had never thought to put in soup before, and I'm very glad that I did.

The best thing about this recipe? The leftovers. I doubled this recipe, which means I've got enough chicken soup to last me for several more weeks even though I've had soup almost everyday for the last week. It's been wonderful and it has certainly made me feel better.

The two items I've never put in chicken soup before: parsnips and dill. Yep, parsnips. Those things that look like overgrown white carrots have a nutty sweetness. They're incredibly high in potassium and vitamin C. They were also incredibly popular in Europe during meatless fasting periods. And while it's hard to believe now since we rarely eat them, but they were once more popular than either carrots or potatoes. My mother used to slice them in long strips and cook them with carrots in a little butter and a drizzle of honey. It got us to eat our veggies without an argument.

Grandma Pozzner's Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken (or 4-5 pounds of pieces complete with bones)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, cut in half
2 bay leaves
10-15 whole peppercorns (or 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 whole bunch of dill
Water
4-5 medium carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped (or 2 turnips)
Salt to taste

Put the chicken in a large stockpot and fill with water until everything is covered by a half inch. Add in the onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves and pepper. Now strip all of the leaves off the dill stems. That might seem like a lot of dill, but the flavor of dill diminishes and changes when it cooks for a long time.

Set the burner to low and cover the pot. Come back and check the water level every half hour or so. After cooking for three to four hours, pull the chicken out of the stock and place in a pan. Add the vegetables to the pan and cover again.

Being careful not to burn yourself, pull the meat off the bones and discard the bones. Tear the meat into bite-sized pieces, and return about half of the meat to the pot. (You can return it all, but I found the ratio seemed about right with half of the meat added back to the pot.) Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. You're now either ready to serve, or you can add rice (and simmer for another 30 minutes) or add pasta or egg noodles and cook until done.

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