Soup is good for whatever is ailing you

Leah Eskin
Chicago Tribune

The chicken buttons her feathered lab coat, tucks a clipboard under wing and turns to her work: curing the common cold. Her efforts have yielded chicken soup, the standard of care in many a household. Served steaming hot, it reduces congestion and — by keeping the patient happily at home — cuts down on contagion. Important contributions to public health.

Big Pharma expands market share via diversification. So does Little Farma and its flock of researchers. Their signature product is available in original, Matzo ball, with rice and now extra strength.

This formulation is fortified with fennel, lemon and garlic. It’s compounded by both roasting and simmering — doubling its sniffle-stifling efforts and doubling down on delicious.

This soup will cure whatever ails you.

Roasted Fennel Elixir

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Makes: 4 servings

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 5

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered and sliced 1/4-inch thick, fronds finely chopped

2 lemons, halved the long way and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 onion, quartered and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 small hot pepper, such as serrano, halved, seeded, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, whole, skin-on

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 star anise (optional)

4 ounces udon noodles

Roast: Rub chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Settle chicken, skin-side up, on a large baking sheet. Set aside 11/2 cup finely chopped fennel fronds. Heap all remaining ingredients (except noodles) onto the pan, and toss with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast at 425 degrees, stirring vegetables occasionally, until they are beautifully caramelized, about 35 minutes.

Crisp: Pull pan out of oven. Avoiding garlic and optional star anise, portion half the vegetables into four large soup bowls. Scrape remaining vegetables and two of the chicken thighs into a large saucepan. Return sheet pan to oven and let remaining chicken crisp, about 25 minutes.

Simmer: Meanwhile, pour water into the saucepan to cover chicken by 1 inch. Stir to break up chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 25 minutes.

Boil: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in noodles; cook until tender but firm. Drain. Rinse under cool water to stop cooking. Portion a nest of noodles into each of the soup bowls.

Slice: When roast chicken is beautifully crisp, pull it out of the oven. Remove and discard bones. Slice meat into 1-inch wide strips. Portion strips, skin-side up, into the soup bowls.

Serve: Strain broth, discard solids. Reheat and add salt if need be. Ladle hot broth into each bowl. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve steaming hot.

Feel better yet?