Make Ahead

Reform Jewish Penicillin

February  3, 2013
Photo by James Ransom
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

  • Serves 4 or more
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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!

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