Is It Still Winter Where You Are? Have We Got a Recipe for You!

Slate's Culture Blog
April 14 2014 8:31 AM

Is It Still Winter Where You Are? Have We Got a Recipe for You!

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet's chicken soup recipe is pretty good. We've improved it.

Photo by James Ransom

Dinner vs. Child is a biweekly column about cooking for children, and with children, and despite children, originally published on Food52 and now appearing on Brow Beat.

Today: A chicken soup bold enough to stand up to the unending winter.


A couple of weeks ago, when I decided we all needed some more chicken soup for this unending winter, a small part of me thought, Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. Surely, by the time the column runs, everyone will have forgotten about that time when they moved the northern half of the United States to the Arctic Circle by mistake, and people will be wearing light cotton fabrics in pastel shades, and the children will no longer be eating mud-topped snow cones but just straight-up mud cones. (Better terroir that way, too.)

And my editors will be like, “Don’t you want to skip that chicken soup column and write about something fresh and spring-y like asparagus with ramp sauce instead?”


Or in the words of Lorrie Moore: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! …

This morning it was 15 degrees.

Is there some sort of Jewish Mothers of the World cookbook that has nothing but recipes for chicken noodle soup? Because that, as Hal David and Burt Bacharach meant to tell us, is what this world needs now. And because I care more for the future happiness of humanity than mere profit, I give this priceless idea to you, with the proviso that you publish it before December, when we will enter suspended animation once more.

Never mind—it exists already. Carry on with your lives.

This chicken soup comes from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, which can never be praised too much. Its only flaw is that it has so many obviously exciting recipes that the quieter ones—like chicken soup—get passed over. And this recipe is especially likely to be skipped, for a few reasons:  

Reason #1: It calls for an enormous quantity of alliums, which it makes it sound like the soup will be sharp and aggressive. It is not. It is the opposite. Simmered in the broth, the onions, shallots and garlic become docile and sweetly charming, the perfect houseguests, if you like to slow-cook your houseguests and noisily slurp them.  

Reason #2: It calls for five whole cilantro plants, roots and all. As it turns out, before children arrived I spent way too much time searching for cilantro plants with the roots still attached and I can tell you that the only reliable way to obtain whole cilantro plants is to grow them yourself. So I opt out: I toss in some cilantro, not even five plants worth, and I forgo the roots. I live with myself. 


Photo by James Ransom

Reason #3: It calls for a whole chicken—and it is wonderful when made with a whole chicken, just as it must be wonderful when made with a pot full of cilantro roots. But most of the time I make this as a slap-dash, duct-taped dinner: I use a pile of assorted frozen chicken parts for stock and pick meat off the bones afterward. It works.

And as if I haven’t mauled the poor recipe enough, I add noodles too. In this time of unending winter, we need to bulk up. 

Chicken Soup with Onions and Garlic for the Endless Winter
Adapted freely from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet (Artisan, 2000)
Serves 4 with soup left over

1 small chicken or whatever chicken you have frozen for stock (if you use assorted parts, you will want a couple of pounds worth)
3 scallions, trimmed
1 bunch cilantro, stalks and roots included (optional: do not scour the city for cilantro with the roots still on; feel free to make without any cilantro)
2 carrots, halved
8 whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon salt
8 small shallots, or 4 large shallots, peeled and halved
1 head of garlic, peeled and halved
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ pound egg noodles (straight wheat noodles are fine, though)
Cilantro, chopped (optional)

This article originally appeared on A New Chicken Noodle Soup for an Endless Winter.

Nicholas Day's book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World, was published in April 2013. Follow him on Twitter.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.