Molly’s been coughing a lot since she came home, from what seems to be a perfect storm of allergies, post graduation body release, and the damp chill from this rash of really cold wet rainy days. It becomes clear that something medicinal is needed today and I come home from the market with all the makings of ‘Romanian Gold’ to address this. I don’t know where my mother found this recipe, but it’s been passed around for years now and has the makings of a family legend at this point.
It’s really just a simple chicken broth. Chicken broth made a particular way to yield a healing broth that is rich and deeply satisfying. I have had the butcher at the market cut the selected whole chicken (grain fed, hormone free) into four pieces, keeping all the bone in. I’ve actually selected a 4 lb chicken, a little larger than what is called for in the recipe of (.2-1/2 -3 lb. chicken, cut into pieces, 1 large onion cut up,1-1/2 quart water (or enough to just cover the pieces in the pot) 3 stalks celery, 3 medium carrots, 4 sprigs parsley, 1-2 tsp. salt). So I will need to adapt a bit. And as much as I routinely do this, adapt and substitute and experiment, this is one recipe that I typically follow with great reverence, because I know there is a reason it is made the way it is. So adapting in this case is to just increase the proportions of other ingredients to match the larger chicken size.
The chicken is put in a large soup pot with 2 medium/large onions cut into quarters and water added to just cover. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook on medium low heat for an hour. Then add 4 large peeled carrots, 4 large stalks celery, 6 full sprigs of fresh parsley, and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Bring to a boil again, cover and simmer on low heat for another two hours (the meat should be falling off the bones at this point). Strain broth into another pan (makes about 5-6 cups). Cool, skim off fat. Serve with crackers, rice, or simple egg noodles.
I’ve always suspected it is the process of making this soup that is key, and that there is significance in only the onions and the chicken sharing the pot In the first hour of cooking. I consult Google and find a great blog article http://eastwesthealing.com/why-is-chicken-broth-andor-bone-broth-so-good-for-you/. It offers the nutritional facts for most of the ingredients of this romanian gold version. Significantly, the chicken contains the “amino acid called cysteine, a substance released when you make the soup. This amino acid is similar to the drug acetylcysteine, which is prescribed by doctors to patients with bronchitis due to its ability to breakdown proteins found in mucous that settles in the lungs.” The onions contain quercetin, another very powerful anti-oxidant which has been ascribed anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties, acting as a natural anti-histamine in many bronchial related conditions,such as allergies and asthma!
I’m also remembering another article recently found about how a peeled onion with the ends cut off, placed in a glass jar next to the bed of a person sick with the flu before going to bed, will be black the next morning. What happens is that the onion draws and absorbs the toxins and germs infecting the sick person. And I flash back to the onion and salt poultices my Albanian grandmother would offer for any scape, cut, or gash. Seemed weirdly old school as a child at the time, but now I am appreciating the age-old wisdom that would aid the body in such a natural way.
So what I think is that the onions in this first step, in addition to being a key medicinal ingredient on its own, actually intensifies the drawing out of the potent cysteine in the chicken bones. The color of the resulting broth depends on the quality and quantity of carrots and parsley used, but the consistency is always the same, a broth that is so filled with the medicine of the chicken that it becomes gelatinous when chilled.
Molly wants noodles, so I prepare a separate pan of wide Italian egg pappardelle and fill each bowl about 1/2 full of the cooked noodles. The steaming broth is ladled in on top.
Just broth and noodles. That’s all. It is deceptively simple, even though it took most of the day to make. And I realize I have had to resist the urge to add more things, like big chunks of the moist chicken saved in another container, or any of the many fresh vegetables in the bin. No, less is definitely more right now…
We sit and slowly enjoy our much anticipated bowl of soup, and simply feel better.