Chicken soup is strong medicine and, like most pharmaceuticals, compounded under lengthy, complex, covert conditions. Saving lives is serious business.
But certain afflictions — winter, flu season and empty-fridge syndrome — call for fast-tracking. Health care providers take note: Though chicken soup is best rendered from whole bird, from carrots and turnips and celery, from bay leaf and dill frond, there is another way: water, onion, cutlet.
Not flashy but efficacious. Leave on the papery onion skin; it makes the shortcut even shorter and tints the broth a “long-simmered” caramel.
Slurp, or stir into soothing tortilla soup. See results. No one — not grandma, not Big Pharma — need know your secret.
Prep: 30 minutes. Cook: 50 minutes. Makes: 6 servings
1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast (1 pound), split into 2 halves
1 onion, skin on, halved
6 cups cold water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mild oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1 box (28 ounces) or can diced tomatoes
3 cups grated cheddar
1 avocado, cut into small cubes
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
1. Poach: Settle chicken and halved onion in a medium saucepan. Pour in water and sprinkle in 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil; skim off any foam. Add black pepper, lower heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Pull out chicken. When cool enough to handle, shred.
2. Brown: Meanwhile, heat oil in a separate saucepan. Tumble in chopped onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
3. Swirl: Scoop onion and garlic into the blender. Add the adobo sauce and the tomatoes. Swirl smooth. Strain this mix into the onion-browning saucepan; cook, covered, over medium-low heat until thick, about 15 minutes.
4. Toss: Toss together cubed avocado, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and a squeeze of lime.
5. Simmer: Strain the broth, discarding the halved onion and other solids. Add broth to the saucepan with the thickened tomato. Cook 5 minutes. Add shredded chicken and heat through, about 1 minute.
6. Serve: Heap 1⁄2 cup grated cheese into each of 6 bowls. Scoop in hot soup. Scatter on avocado and a handful of broken tortilla chips. Serve with lime.