I love the way Italian cuisine pairs beans with meats or bitter greens. I’ve drawn upon that tradition for this hearty, warming soup just in time for flu season.
I tend to avoid chicken breast meat like plague. Dry, tasteless and unappealing, chicken breasts are held in high regard by the low-fat prophets (profits?) for high protein content minus pesky fat. Never mind the majority of the nutrition we derive from meats is located in the fat, skin, marrow and collagen, our need for protein entirely secondary. Too much protein will transform into glycogen within our bodies — a form of glucose that settles as body fat on our derrières and other places we think we’re protecting by eating bland breast meat.
So, in the spirit of true nourishment, I say down with breast meat! Bones are imperative for this recipe as you’ll be making your own good, rich broth during the cooking process. I used the chicken legs I had on hand, but you could also use thighs, or if you choose to use breasts, please buy breasts with the breast bone and ribs still attached.
Making your own bone broth is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your overall health. You can make big batches of stock for freezing, but cooking meat on the bone for a few hours and consuming the resulting broth as part of the meal is as simple as it comes.
You’ll be consuming the entire spectrum of amino acids, collagen for joint and skin health, a variety of accessible minerals, natural gelatin, a good dose of omega 3 fatty acids provided you buy pastured, free range chicken, and natural fats, which according to Nora Gedgaudas in her book, Primal Body, Primal Mind, are necessary in “… building, rebuilding, and maintaining cellular membranes and nerve tissue, manufacturing hormones and neurotransmitters, facilitating cellular communication and absorption of critical fat-soluble nutrients… supporting the immune and lymphatic systems… and fueling the brain, heart and other muscles.”
No wonder chicken broth has been traditionally considered a flu remedy!
Buy your chicken with the skin and bones, and remember that the natural tastiness of real food, without manipulation by MSG, trans fats, corn products like high fructose corn syrup, sugar or excessive saltiness (read: foods designed by Mother Earth, not Dr. Laboratory) is a pretty good indication of available nutrients, i.e. those unfairly shunned fatty chicken legs and thighs.
And as fast as you can, dump out all fake powered broths containing strange things like yeast, MSG (usually called “natural flavors”), sugar, corn starch, vegetable oils and who knows what other preservatives.
An interesting observation: since I’ve stopped consuming foods with industrial preservatives I can both smell and taste them immediately. Walking through Costco at lunch time the other day I was awash in the heavy, metallic, preservative-laden smells of the various packaged foods they were offering as samples. It was surprising, and decidedly unappetizing.
· 8 chicken legs or thighs, skin on
· 6 slices (streaky) bacon, cut into 1/2 inch segments
· 1 cup cooked white beans such as Navy, Great Northern or Cannellini
· 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
· 3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
· 2 stalks celery, thinly chopped
· 1 yellow onion, chopped
· 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
· 1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
· 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
· 2 bay leaves
· Juice from 1/2 a lemon
· salt to taste
· freshly ground black pepper
Fry the bacon over a medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Once its fat has mostly rendered (5-10 minutes or so), add the onions and soften till translucent.
Add the chicken legs for browning on all sides. Browning meats seals in their natural flavors. You might need to kick the heat up a bit, but keep an eye out for burning.
Once the chicken has lightly browned on all sides, pour in enough water to fully cover everything (or more if you like a soupy-soup). Bring to the boil and skim off the grey scum that bubbles to the top. Then add the white wine or vermouth which will help to draw minerals from the bones.
Lower the heat and good on a gentle simmer for an hour, then add the beans, carrots, celery, garlic and herbs and simmer for another hour.
The longer you cook it, the more nutrients the broth will contain. However you want your chicken to be falling-apart tender, not disintegrated, so be careful if you surpass the 2 hour mark.
Remove the skin for serving if you choose, and either serve a whole leg or thigh in each bowl or you might choose to shred the meat from the bones before serving.
Either way, you’ll be getting a delicious, nourishing serving of real chicken broth to keep you in tip-top shape this flu season. To your health!