January is a good month for Chicken Soup and Russian novels: Chicken soup because colds often rear their nasty heads after the holiday excitement dwindles and Russian novels because January is a long, sometimes dreary month and Russian novels are long and—let’s face it—sometimes dreary. Earlier this week I started rereading a college favorite, Anna Karenina. I can’t put it down. I wake up in the morning looking for 10 empty minutes where I can read a few chapters, and I go to bed at night wishing there were more hours in the day to read. I lose myself in the tragic tale of high society Moscow and Petersburg life; idealistic Levin trying to make sense of his changing country; and countless foreshadowing motifs of that crown of Industrialization—the train.
Chicken and Rice soup is simple food, the type of peasant food that Levin would have preferred to the champagne and oysters of Moscow. The broth is made from scratch by boiling a whole chicken in water with vegetables, and the result is pure, flavorful and unclouded. This chicken soup is so easy to make that it will leave you plenty of time to read your Russian novel. And unless you’re feeding a crowd, the leftovers will save you cooking time later in the week, giving you even more time to read. Whether or not you feel groggy with a headcold, this soup will warm you through, helping you relax as you agonize over the fate of a certain few Russians.
Serves 8 (Makes about 16 cups)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 large celery ribs, cut into ¼-inch-thick-slices
3 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch-thick-slices
1 (3½- to 4-pound) chicken
1 cup long-grain brown rice (don’t use white rice because it will turn mushy)
? cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 Tablespoon salt, divided
3 quarts water
Freshly ground black pepper
Make the Soup
Combine onion, celery, carrots, chicken, rice, parsley and 1 teaspoon salt in a 6-quart pot. Add water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer, skimming off fat as needed, for 1 hour.
Transfer chicken to a colander. When cool enough to handle, remove meat; discard skin and bones. Coarsely shred chicken and return to soup. Add remaining 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste and reheat if necessary.
This recipe is from my favorite cookbook, The Gourmet Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin 2004), p 122.