Make Ahead

Reform Jewish Penicillin

February  3, 2013
13 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4 or more
Author Notes

When I was growing up, my mother called chicken soup “Jewish Penicillin.” We think of it as the cure for the common cold. Chicken noodle soup is great comfort food, and every Jewish cook has her own best version. Around here (Long Island, NY), it’s made so specifically that our grocery stores carry packaged vegetables and herbs that are called “soup greens.” I think of them as the cake mix of vegetables. If you put them in a big pot with some chicken, water and salt, you’re making home made soup.

Recently I’ve been cooking through the wonderful cookbook “Gran Cocina Latina” by Maricel Presilla. One of the most interesting dishes I made was a rather bland chicken and vegetable stew that was brought alive by the addition of Patagonian Pebre Sauce with Merken, a tomato-onion condiment enhanced with a spicy smoked paprika made by the Mapuche Indians in southern Chile. What I loved about the condiment was that you could add it according to your individual taste. So when my husband had a bad cold, and I made his favorite chicken noodle soup, I stirred a little Pebre sauce into mine, and wow, it was a different soup. The chicken soup part is adapted from my husband’s way of making chicken soup (which he learned from his Yiddish-speaking mother), and the Pebre sauce is lightly adapted from “Gran Cocina Latina.”

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Drbabs is a mean baker who grew up in New Orleans.
WHAT: A comforting chicken soup with the boldest stir-in you'll ever meet.
HOW: Chicken soup is business as usual -- then you'll create a bright, spicy sauce flecked with parsley that will change the whole game.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This soup tastes like your mom's chicken noodle went on an exotic trip around the world -- and didn't come back until it had partied in every discothéque, tiki hut, and cabana there was. Consider us reformed. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the soup (Jewish Penicillin):
  • 3 pounds chicken wings, or a mixture of wings and thighs
  • 2 quarts water (or to cover the chicken and vegetables)
  • 2 carrots (My husband likes to eat the soup carrots so I peel them first.)
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 parsnips
  • 2 stalks celery, preferably with leaves
  • A big handful of fresh parsley
  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound fine egg noodles
  • For the Patagonian Pebre Sauce (Reform it.)
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes (It’s winter; I use Pomi or Muir Glen)
  • 1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. For the soup (Jewish Penicillin):
  2. Put everything except the noodles in a big soup pot over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours, periodically skimming off any foam and debris that rise to the surface.
  3. Make the sauce, below, while the soup is, as we say, souping. Refrigerate it so that the flavors can meld together.
  4. Remove the chicken and vegetables. Reserve chicken, onions and carrots (if desired), and bring broth to boil again until it is reduced by about 1/3. (This will concentrate the flavors.) Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
  5. Take the chicken meat off the bones, and discard the bones. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Ladle soup into a bowl, and add in some shredded chicken, a carrot, some onion and the noodles.
  1. For the Patagonian Pebre Sauce (Reform it.)
  2. Mix everything together. Taste it, and adjust seasoning as desired. (It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, but bring it to room temperature before serving.) Stir a tablespoon or two into the chicken noodle soup. Get well soon!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Annaperenna
  • Drop the Beet
    Drop the Beet
  • Valerie Thomas
    Valerie Thomas
  • Transcendancing
  • Martha

69 Reviews

Muriel February 8, 2017
This is more of a question. I know that originally chicken soup was made from old stewing hens. Would it be better to shorten cooking time for meat that is to be eaten so it doesn't get mushy and stringy. Then add a breast for a shorter period? Or does the chicken meat still come out right cooking this length of time?
Thank you.
drbabs February 9, 2017
For modern tastes, your idea of essentially poaching the breast separately is a good one. I'll sometimes use chicken stock instead of water, and then reduce the time I cook the chicken. (Don't tell my husband.) Some people discard the meat after cooking if it's unpalatable.
Annaperenna January 2, 2017
I think I'm addicted to this Pebre Sauce. We had some leftover from the soup (in which I loved it!) & I've since used it on eggs, in nachos, on rice. It's a wonderful thing.
drbabs January 3, 2017
I'm so glad you like it. Thanks for letting me know.
Drop T. January 18, 2015
WOW! This soup was amazing. The Pebre sauce really makes a difference.

Also, keep the carrots! Yum! Thank you for this one. Keeping this one handy.
drbabs January 19, 2015
So glad you enjoyed it!!
Valerie T. November 11, 2014
Hi - Could I use a mix of beef broth (about a cup) and water to initially cook the chicken and veggies?
drbabs November 11, 2014
Hi Valerie!. Sure, soups are pretty flexible. I think that would be fine.
Transcendancing September 25, 2014
We have a rule in our house, that when you're sick, you get chicken soup (or comfort dish of choice) made for you. One member of the household is frequently sick because they work in a call centre, so I've made a LOT of chicken soup in the past year and a half. This soup was declared by another member of the household to be their favourite chicken soup yet. It's simple and delicious. Also, if you already have chicken stock on hand, takes less time to cook. Here's where I adjusted it because I already had chicken stock. I brought it to the boil, added the carrots, onions, garlic and celery (didn't have parsnips), let it come to the boil then simmer for about 45 minutes. Then I strained out the vegetables (and readded the carrots), and let it simmer. Made the Pebre sauce while the soup was initially 'souping' and let it sous in the fridge. Cooked the pasta after I strained it and added some roughly chopped boneless chicken thigh meat. By the time the pasta was cooked, so was the chicken. Thought this might be handy for others as a variation as I can't be the only one with homemade chicken stock on hand :) Delicious soup, the Pebre sauce really adds to the overall flavour and takes it to a satisfying intensity when you're recovering from being ill, or it's simply a cold night needing soup. Will definitely keep this as part of my chicken soup rotation! (Please feel free to suggest other chicken soups of awesomeness to me if you feel inclined).
drbabs September 25, 2014
Thank you for your sweet note. I'm so glad you enjoyed the soup! Your variations sound great.
Martha January 27, 2014
This is the best soup/medicine. I made it last spring and have been trying to relocate the recipe ever since. I should have known it was on FOOD52--all of my favorite recipes are.
drbabs September 25, 2014
I just saw this-- thank you!
Sister J. January 12, 2014
This looks wonderful! I just made chicken stock for the first time and it is gorgeous! I will try this recipe with the stock I have made! Can't wait.
drbabs September 25, 2014
I just saw this-- I hope it worked well for you.
louisez March 2, 2013
a case of the impatient patient -- and no surprise.... my sister's surgery was in october, but she's been doing great for a while now. i know how difficult it must be for you -- and wish you well. i'm not that familiar with reconstructionism either -- but can't resist a good -- or in this case, a bad -- joke. take care.
drbabs March 3, 2013
Thanks, louisez. It's good to hear that your sister is doing well. I'm fortunate to have found a surgeon who does that procedure in such a way that the muscles aren't cut, making the short term recovery easier-- I've been walking without a cane since I got home from the hospital. It is shocking how draining the recovery is, and I'm looking forward to feeling good again. XO
tastysweet May 19, 2013
I take it you had a hip replacement? My husband had his done in Jan. he was back playing tennis and golf by the end of Feb. his was posterior. In the hospital for only two full days. Great surgeon. A lot of good ones down here in the Naples, Fl. Area.
But I absolutely love chicken soup. So will plan on trying this one. I usually take all the vegetables out after cooking as well as the chicken. I do dispose of the veggies. Then let stock sit in refrigerator so all the fat comes to the top and can be scraped off. Then fresh carrots and celery are put back in. Then the shredded chicken and then the cooled noodles. But it does take forever. So will try your method. Thanks for sharing.
drbabs May 19, 2013
Yes, tastysweet. I was lucky to have a great surgeon, too, and I've done really well. Mine was anterior, and I was also in the hospital for 2 days and back at work in 4 weeks. Amazing.

Techniques for chicken soup are really personal, aren't they? I hope you like the Pebre sauce.
tastysweet May 19, 2013
I know I will like it. Just will have to find the time to make it. Now no comments. I am retired. But I play lots of tennis and occasional golf. Then there are happy hours. Well you get the picture. But I do love, love food. I having been trying now to find the time to make my friend's recipe for macaroni/cheese. The air conditioning unit finally bit the dust and now getting new unit hopefully tomorrow. Way to hot to cook. The fans work really well. But pizza is calling out our names.
So glad you are doing well. All behind you now.
drbabs May 19, 2013
Not exactly soup weather, eh? It will keep. Thanks for your good wishes.
louisez March 1, 2013
Dr B -- I hope you're recovering well. One of my sisters recently went through hip surgery -- and recovery does take time. But lovely to be able to walk, to function without pain. And by the way -- a wonderful recipe, though I might have a quibble with the title. Are you quite sure it shouldn't be
Reconstructionist Jewish Penicillin?
drbabs March 2, 2013
Thanks, louisez. I'm 18 days postop and doing well, but i still feel like a train hit me. (trying to be patient)

Hmmm, reconstructionist. Yes, very funny. I'm much more familiar with the reform movement and didn't think of that.
drbabs February 28, 2013
Hi everyone! I've been recovering from hop replacement surgery this week, so I haven't been able to respond to all your comments, but I want to let you know how much I've appreciated all your kind words, and how much fun it was to be a finalist again. While I think the better soup won, it really made my week to be up there for consideration, and I hope you try this dish and enjoy it. Love and gratitude always for this wonderful community. XO
drbabs February 28, 2013
Ok, sorry that was hip replacement. Oops!
TheWimpyVegetarian February 28, 2013
I hope your recovery is as smooth as it was for a close friend of mine who had hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago. Hopefully you've had some of this soup nearby :-) Take care or yourself drbabs - and I've got your wonderful soup on my list to make!
drbabs February 28, 2013
Thanks, so much, Susan; I'm doing well. Hope you enjoy.
gingerroot March 1, 2013
Sending you all my best wishes for a quick recovery Barbara!! XO
lapadia March 1, 2013
At least once a day I’m sending a special healing thought your way! Take Care...xo
drbabs March 1, 2013
Thank you so much also, Jen and Linda. I'm doing better every day. XO
tastysweet May 19, 2013
Didn't realize your surgery was just done. Key is the rehab. Do it faithfully. Get well soon.
Kukla February 28, 2013
Congratulations ones again Barbara!! I know your Pebre Sauce will find its way into many of my dishes.
em-i-lis February 25, 2013
congrats, dr b. love this!
simplythebest February 22, 2013
I may have to make this, perfect weather for soup!
ChristineQ February 22, 2013
Congratulations! Love your twist on the soup and look forward to trying it.
ChefJune February 22, 2013
DrBabs, I love how you named this soup! I've been incorporating Diana Kennedy's (from "Oaxaca al Gusto") little twists into my "Jewish Penicillin" of late, also to great effect.
fiveandspice February 22, 2013
Yay! Congratulations drbabs!! This looks so delicious and fabulously comforting.
Madhuja February 21, 2013
That Pebre sauce sounds amazing! Congratulations on becoming a finalist!
TheWimpyVegetarian February 21, 2013
Yay!!! This looks fantastic - many congrats to you for being a finalist!
drbabs February 21, 2013
Well, this was a total thrill for me today--thank you all for your sweet comments.
Bevi February 21, 2013
Congrats! This sounds great!