In addition to the all-incompassing photo shoot at the farm this week, we had a house full of sick designers, models and assistants. They were all total troopers- in spite of their runny noses and sore throats! The good news is that all are now on the mend, and I think that is due- at least in part- to my homemade chicken soup.

I want you to make this chicken soup now, while you are healthy and well, and freeze it in serving-size portions for when you catch the inevitable cold. Future, sick you will be all kinds of grateful that past, healthy you took the time and care to fill up the freezer with this magical and healing chicken soup that beats the hell out of anything that comes from a can.

I have been told that this is the best chicken soup in the universe, which may be a slight exaggeration, but it is awfully damned good. There are two top secret reasons for that which I will reveal in this post but only if you promise to keep them under your hat. Discretion is paramount, y’all!

This soup is also dead easy to make and doesn’t ever require homemade chicken stock to be sublime, although homemade stock would make it even…um…sublimer. I have a freezer full of homemade stock but with 46 garments to shoot and a houseful of cold-havers, I didn’t have time for it to thaw. I used boxed stock. So sue me!

2 Medium Yellow Onions
4 Carrots
4 Celery Stalks
3 or 4 Sprigs of Thyme
1 Rosemary Stalk
LOTS of Garlic (1 head, or 1 3.15oz tube of garlic paste)
3 48oz Containers of LOW SODIUM chicken stock
Cooked Whole Chicken (Roasted at home, or unflavored rotisserie)
1 Heaping Tablespoon Chicken Base (Glace de Poulet or Better Than Boullion)
Super Wide Egg Noodles, cooked to serve (Can sub wild rice or couscous)

First make a mirepoix. Mirepoix is two parts diced onions, one part diced carrots, one part diced celery. I used two medium yellow onions, four carrots and four celery stalks.

Gently saute your mirepoix in your largest dutch oven or soup pot. Cook over medium-low heat until they are softened by not mushy.

When the mirepoix is softened, add the leaves from three or four sprigs of thyme, the chopped leaves of one rosemary stalk and lots and lots of garlic. I usually mince an entire head of garlic for this soup but I didn’t have time for all that fiddly chopping this time, so I used an entire tube of concentrated garlic paste. You can used jarred minced garlic, although I think it is a poor substitute for the real deal. Garlic, rosemary and thyme all have medical properties, which is why they are the flavor stars of this soup.

Since we want to make enough soup to portion and freeze, we’re going big! Add three 48 ounces boxes of low sodium chicken stock to your pot and raise the heat to medium high.

You can either roast a chicken on your own or buy rotisserie chicken at the market. If you go the rotisserie route, be sure to get an unflavored chicken, i.e. not bar-b-que or lemon flavored.

Shred the the entire chicken with your hands, discarding the skin this will seem like a lot of chicken but that’s kind of the idea. I like my chicken soup packed. Add the chicken to your soup pot.

Okay, here’s secret ingredient number one. Have you ever wondered why restaurant chicken soup is so much better than yours? Here’s why. In restaurant parlance, it’s called chicken base and now you can get it at the supermarket. Stir a HEAPING tablespoon of chicken base to your soup pat. [I actually great prefer Glace de Poulet to Better Than Bouillon but my grocery store doesn’t carry it. I stock up when I’m in Charlottesville or Baltimore but Better Than Bouillon is a perfectly good substitute. What isn’t a good substitute is bouillon cubes! Don’t be tempted to toss a couple of those in – too salty and too weird tasting. If you find Glace de Poulet, stir into the soup exactly the way I did here, ignoring the package directions.]

Let your soup simmer until thoroughly heated, 20 minutes or so.

Secret number two to the best chicken soup is to cook the noodles in a separate pot of water only when you are ready to serve. Yes, it’s another pot to watch but trust me, it’s entirely worth it. Most chicken soup suffers from mushy, over-cooked noodles and it is entirely unnecessary. The other benefit of cooking the noodles separately is that you aren’t limiting yourself to only noodle soup. Sometimes I like to add wild rice to this soup, or even couscous. In this case, I used super-wide egg noodles.

When you’re ready to eat, simply add your noodles to the bowl and then ladle in the soup.

Reward yourself for all that work with a bowl for lunch.

Tuck the rest away in portion-sized containers for a day when you are too under the weather to feed yourself.