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Broyles: Four chicken soup recipes to soothe the soul this winter

Addie Broyles
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This ginger and bok choy chicken soup is from Christopher Kimball's new book, "Milk Street Fast and Slow: Instant Pot Cooking at the Speed You Need."

Chicken soup won't cure COVID-19, but it might ease your sniffles.

After so many months of pandemic life, we're getting better at making ourselves feel as good as we can, even with the coronavirus knocking at the door. (Or maybe even coming right in the house.)

Early January is usually a time when we're brimming with excitement for the year ahead, but with COVID-19 hitting its predicted peaks just as we experience our annual cedar fever season, many of us are digging deep for extra comfort and nourishment.

Thanks to the vaccine - and countless "Chicken Soup for the Soul"-worthy stories of kindness that have come out of the past 10 months - many of us are still finding some hopefulness as we look toward the year ahead. Maybe a few new chicken soup recipes will fuel some of that feel-betterness, too.

For the best chicken soup, start with the whole bird and simmer gently.

Chicken Parmesan Soup with Crumbled Croutons

When you need a quick, easy meal and don't want to deal with a pile of dishes, this soup fits the bill perfectly. It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, from start to finish, and it all takes place in one pot. Dry pasta is simmered right along with the other ingredients and cooks up perfectly al dente. Crumbled, store-bought croutons sprinkled on top add great flavor and texture and drive home the chicken Parmesan theme. This is a wonderful no-fuss, busy-day meal. - Valerie Brunmeier

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons minced garlic

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I like Better Than Bouillon)

8 ounces dry short pasta (fusilli, penne and elbow macaroni all make good choices)

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup cheese and garlic-flavored croutons, lightly crushed

Pour the olive oil into a large pot or Dutch oven and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and onion. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, and saute; until the chicken is cooked through and the onion is tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes and stir to combine well. Add the diced tomatoes, broth and dry pasta.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, then stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley and season with additional salt and pepper.

Garnish individual servings with the mozzarella cheese, crushed croutons and a little Parmesan cheese. Serves 6. - From "The Foolproof Family Slow Cooker and Other One-Pot Solutions" by Valerie Brunmeier (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)

Chicken Soup with Bok Choy and Ginger

We got the idea for this light, clean-tasting yet aromatic chicken soup from classic Chinese poached chicken, sometimes referred to as "white-cooked" chicken. The addition of baby bok choy, simmered in the broth until the stems are tender, gives the soup verdant color and turns it into a meal in a bowl. The bok choy, scallions and cilantro are added at the end of cooking, so prep these ingredients while the chicken cooks. Fragrant steamed jasmine rice would be a welcome accompaniment, either spooned directly into the bowl or offered on the side.

Don't use cooking sherry for this recipe; it usually has added sodium and little, if any, actual sherry flavor. And don't use boneless, skinless chicken for this soup. Bones give the broth body as well as flavor. - Christopher Kimball

1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil

1 (4-inch) piece fresh ginger (about 3 ounces), peeled and cut into 4 pieces

5 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1/2 cup dry sherry

2 teaspoons white peppercorns

Kosher salt

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, skin removed

1 pound baby bok choy, trimmed and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

Kosher salt and ground white pepper

Chile oil or toasted sesame oil, to serve

On a 6-quart Instant Pot, select More/High Saute. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the sherry and bring to a boil. Stir in 6 cups water, the peppercorns and 2 teaspoons salt. Add the chicken thighs, arranging them in an even layer.

To cook in a pressure cooker: Press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 20 minutes. When pressure cooking is complete, let the pressure reduce naturally for 15 minutes, then release the remaining steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.

To cook using the slow-cooker setting: With the pot still on More/High Saute, bring the mixture to a boil. Press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Venting. Select Slow Cook and set the temperature to Less/Low. Set the cooking time for 5 to 6 hours; the chicken is done when a skewer inserted into a piece meets no resistance. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.

To finish: Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl; discard the solids in the strainer. Let the broth settle for about 5 minutes, then, using a large spoon, skim off and discard the fat from the surface. Return the broth to the pot. Remove and discard any bones from the chicken and shred or chop the meat into bite-size pieces.

Select Normal/Medium Saute; and bring the broth to a simmer. Stir in the bok choy and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken, scallions, cilantro and vinegar. Taste and season with salt and ground white pepper. Serve drizzled with chile oil or sesame oil. Serves 6.

- From "Milk Street Fast and Slow: Instant Pot Cooking at the Speed You Need" by Christopher Kimball (Voracious, $30)

Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Puff Pastry Croutons

Roasted chicken breasts and stock provide the foundation for this beyond-comforting dish. It's all the richness of savory pot pie in soup form, created by the queen herself. You may already have most of the ingredients in this recipe - which is featured in Ina Garten's new pandemic-minded "Modern Comfort Food" (Clarkson Potter; $35) - though you may need to pick up the sherry and fresh tarragon. Oh, and the Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry to make those darling croutons.

A few notes: First, wet leeks will steam, rather than saute, Garten says. So chop the white and light green parts, wash them well in a bowl of water and then spin them dry in a salad spinner.

Wondra, if you're unfamiliar with it, is basically an instant flour. It's precooked, dried and so finely ground, it's often used to thicken sauces and gravies because it dissolves so easily, without clumping. You'll find it in a bright blue can on the supermarket flour aisle. If you don't have Wondra on hand, mix a similar amount of all-purpose flour with a little water or stock, and add the resulting paste to the broth to thicken it.

And the key to using puff pastry is to keep it very cold until it goes into the hot oven. Defrost frozen puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator, then roll it, cut it and bake it just before serving.

- Jessica Yadegaran, The Mercury News

3 chicken breasts, skin-on, bone-in (2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)

Good olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)

4 cups chopped fennel, tops and cores removed (2 bulbs)

3 cups (1/2-inch) diced scrubbed carrots (5 medium)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1/4 cup Wondra flour

3/4 cup cream sherry, divided use

7 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 (2-by-3-inch) piece of Italian Parmesan rind

10-ounce package frozen peas

1 cup frozen whole pearl onions

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken on a sheet pan, skin side up. Rub the skin with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, until a thermometer registers 130 to 140 degrees. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin and bones and cut the chicken in 1-inch dice. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add the leeks, fennel and carrots, and saute over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender but not browned.

Stir in the garlic and tarragon and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the sherry, the chicken stock, 4 teaspoons salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper and the Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the chicken, peas and onions and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove the Parmesan rind and add the remaining 1/4 cup sherry and the parsley. Serve hot in large shallow bowls with two puff pastry croutons on top. Serves 6.

Puff Pastry Croutons

All-purpose flour

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Lightly dust a board and rolling pin with flour. Unfold the sheet of puff pastry on the board, dust it lightly with flour, and lightly roll the pastry just to smooth out the folds.

With a star-shaped or fluted round cookie cutter, cut 12 stars or rounds of pastry and place them on the prepared sheet pan. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. (Make ahead: Prepare the pastry cutouts and refrigerate. Bake just before serving.)

- From "Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35)

Minty Chicken and Rice

While Instant Pots have taken off in the U.S., electric soup makers have risen in popularity in the U.K. You can find these one-pot soup cookers here, but they aren't quite as common as those pressure cooker/slow cooker hybrids that are now in millions of American homes. This minty chicken and rice soup from "Ultimate Soup Maker" by Joy Skipper is specifically written for a soup maker, which has a "chunky" setting that cooks the ingredients for about 30 minutes, but you could use the same ratios of ingredients on a stovetop or cut the time in half in a pressure cooker. Skipper cooks the short-grain rice with the rest of the soup, but you could cook it separately if you want to ensure the rice doesn't get mushy. America's Test Kitchen cooks have found that short-grain rice, such as risotto or paella rice, doesn't fall apart as easily as long-grain rice when cooked in soups, but many cooks prefer to cook them separately anyway.

- Addie Broyles

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 red chile, deseeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons dried mint

9 ounces cooked chicken breast fillets, cut into thin strips

1/2 cup short-grain white rice, such as paella, rinsed and drained

2 teaspoons tomato puree

2 pints chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Small bunch of fresh mint, finely shredded, to garnish

Lemon wedges, to serve (optional)

Heat the oil in the soup maker using the saute function. Add the onions, chile and coriander seeds and saute for 5 minutes until the onions are softened, stirring frequently with a spatula.

Add the dried mint, chicken, rice, tomato puree and stock and mix well, then cook on the chunky setting. Season the soup to taste, then pour into warm bowls and garnish with the shredded mint. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

- From "Ultimate Soup Maker: More than 100 simple, nutritious recipes" by Joy Skipper (Hamlyn, $14.99)

Addie Broyles writes about food for the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas. She can be reached at abroyles@statesman.com, or follow her on Twitter at @broylesa.