When life gives you a cold, perfect your chicken soup

For two reasons, one a stupid rookie mistake involving packet pick-up and the other my craptastic cold, I missed the Navy 5-miler yesterday. Can y'all even believe it? I'm still disappointed, not least because I'd been prepping for months. 

I didn't sleep well on Saturday night and feel certain I wouldn't have run well or felt particularly terrific afterwards. I'm trying to channel my approaching-40 zen about this, but I admit that I'm glum.

That said, my crew started family tennis lessons on Saturday which we found insanely fun, Jack's baseball team won its game last night, and because the kids returned to school and I still feel under the weather today, it seemed a mighty fine time to perfect my homemade chicken noodle soup.

I took meticulous notes while cooking this morning so that I could share with you what will now be our family's chicken soup recipe. You can now find it here: Chicken Noodle Soup, Best.

There is such a lovely economy in chicken soup. Use all of the carrots and celery, every bit of the chicken. Out of fairly humble ingredients comes an elixir.

If you are so inclined, and I do hope that maybe you are, please buy the best-quality chicken you can. Think of your chicken roaming a farm, flapping its wings and eating bugs and seed and so forth, growing strong and flavorful as it does so. Your soup, body and any ailments will notice the difference and will thank you profusely.

I myself purchase spring chickens at the farmers market in March/April or, once I've run out of those I then stock in my chest freezer, buy Step 3, 4 or 5 chickens at Whole Foods or another reputable butcher. The Step ratings signify the treatment, food and life the chickens have had prior to being slaughtered. Your average supermarket chicken did not live or die well, and I just can't go there.

I also like to use homemade chicken stock which I make and then freeze in 4-cup portions every time I roast a whole chicken. The skin, bones, tendons and fascia makes a great base for stock, and the flavor of your soup will be all the better for it. If you don't want to make stock, or don't have any on hand, buy a good quality one.

Your produce and spices are important too. Carrots should be bright orange and require a bit of elbow grease and a sharp knife to cut. Celery should be a vibrant green, and please don't toss the leaves; they'll enrich your soup. Use a juicy yellow onion that is in no way desiccated or sad. Lemon zest brightens everything, including this soup, so have a nice fresh lemon on hand.

The three spices that I use in my chicken soup are bay leaves, cinnamon and allspice. They provide a savory, slightly sweet depth that complements beautifully the schmaltzy goodness gained from the chicken bits.

Please love yourself (or your family or the friend for whom you're making this) even more by using extra-wide egg noodles as the noodle in your soup. Egg noodles bring the comfort factor of good chicken soup to the next level. Pour them in with a generous hand, and you won't regret it (although you must remember that they'll sponge up quite a bit of your broth so don't go too nuts OR have extra stock or water on hand if the liquid level in your pot gets low).

Cook your soup slowly, at least an hour, hopefully two, until the chicken starts to fall apart, joint by joint. Little bones, or even larger ones, might escape the skeleton. This is fine; don't remove them until the end because they'll continue to add depth and flavor, even once disembodied. Indeed, removing the skin and carcass is your last step before skimming egregious fat from your broth. 

Get out a lovely bowl, a deep one, and ladle in some soup just for you. If you haven't already, give thanks to your chicken and the time you just lavished on your self and this meal. Enjoy. Better health will be yours soon.

An added bonus? This is a one-pot meal!