Chicken Soup For The Cold: 10 Chef-Approved Recipes

UPDATE: This story was originally published on December 18.
Frequently tattooed, always playing with fire, and typically seen wielding knives, chefs tend to be a pretty badass breed. But when the winter winds start howling, they start jonesing for a little comfort food, just like the rest of us. That’s why we asked some of our favorite local gourmets, including Kristine Subido of The Pecking Order and Jess De Guzman of Sunda, to share their favorite recipes for the most classic of wintertime comfort foods: chicken soup.
We also uncovered each of their secret ingredients for guarding your soul from the wintertime blues—whether it’s getting playful with your pots and pans or slipping on a divinely cozy (we won’t tell) Snuggie. So, pull out your celery, carrots, knives, and ready-to-wear blankets, and read on for tips on whipping up everything from matzo ball soup to French garbure, Mexican pozole rojo, and Filipino arroz caldo. We promise, you'll be feeling better in no time.
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Chef Brian Merel, a Chicago-area personal chef

This Mexican-style chicken soup recipe is almost as spicy as chef Merel himself — check out the language on this hottie tamale, below!

1 whole chicken cut into pieces (8)
2 jalapeños
2 white onions
4 celery stalks
4 carrots 
2 tomatoes (diced, reserve for garnish)
1 bunch cilantro
2 ears roasted corn kernels (reserved for garnish) 
1 cup sliced cabbage (reserved for garnish)
2 avocados (reserved for garnish)
2 qts chicken or veggie stock
Add another quart or two of water for larger yield

1. Season chicken with kosher salt and pepper.
2. Sear all pieces in large soup pot, browning both sides until golden.
3. Pull them out, then add carrots, celery, onion, and jalapeño.
4. Sauté on medium-high heat till they get some color.
5. Add stock into the pan and deglaze.
6. Throw the chicken back into the pot with 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. Simmer for two hours on medium heat, taking the fat off the top every once in a while.
7. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
8. Bowl a piece of chicken and broth per serving.
9. Add a bit of cilantro, cabbage, corn, avocado and tomato right before serving or let your guests do it for themselves.
10. Eat. Sweat. Smile. Repeat. 

...and for the soul: Merel muscles through the Chicago winter by “being naked for as much time as possible, constant cooking, a healthy amount of sleep, and smiles. Without these things, I’ll go f***in’ bonkers.”
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Chef Amanda Downing: Rockit Bar & Grill

A recipe for the delicious dish our grandmother used to call “Jewish penicillin.”

64 ounces good-quality chicken stock
2 8-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups matzo meal
8 whole large eggs
½ cup chicken fat, aka schmaltz
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp salt, plus 1 tbsp
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup water, plus more water for cooking
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced carrots

1. In a large bowl, combine matzo meal, parsley, one teaspoon salt, and pepper.
2. In a separate small bowl, combine eggs and chicken fat. Using a large fork, incorporate the fat and egg mixture with the matzo meal mixture. 3. Slowly add in the ¼ cup of water. Do not over mix. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
4. Combine chicken breasts and chicken stock in a large stock pot, bring up to a heavy simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cover.
5. Cook chicken until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken and allow to cool until able to handle. Pull chicken apart and mix back into stock. Keep hot.
6. In a large, wide-mouth stock pot, bring about one gallon of water to a boil with the one tablespoon of salt.
7. Add the carrots and celery and cook for about two minutes until al dente.
8. Remove carrot and celery from water and add to the chicken broth. Keep the water boiling.
9. After the matzo mix has chilled for an hour, take 1/4 cup scoops and drop into the boiling water, working quickly. Repeat with the entire mix.
10. Turn heat down to a medium simmer and cook matzo balls for approximately 20 minutes, until tender and fully cooked.
11. Add matzo balls to the chicken and vegetable broth. Serve.

  …and for the soul: For Downing, there’s no place like home. “I love making family dinners at my parents’ house because it brings me back to where I first learned to cook and surrounds me with the people, my dad especially, who were my guinea pigs,” she says.

Rockit Bar & Grill, 22 West Hubbard Street (at Illinois Street); 312-645-6000.
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Chef Kristine Subido: The Pecking Order

Chef Subido says this steamy Filipino treat is “best enjoyed on the couch, with a very big spoon.” Excuse us while we grab our snuggies.

Arroz Caldo Ingredients:
1 cup annatto risotto (cooked)
4 cups chicken broth (boiling)
½ tsp fresh garlic (finely chopped)
½ tsp ginger (finely grated)
6 oz shredded, roasted chicken
¼ salted duck egg
½ tsp cilantro (chopped)
½ tsp crispy chicken skin (crushed)
1 tsp blended oil
½ oz green sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up the oil in a small sauté pan. Sauté garlic, ginger and chicken until golden in color.
2. Add risotto and broth. Stir and heat for two minutes.
3. Place in a warm bowl.
4. Splash lemon juice and sprinkle crispy chicken, cilantro, green sauce and salted duck egg on top.

Annatto Risotto Ingredients:
2 lb Arborio rice
4 oz finely chopped garlic
4 oz finely chopped ginger
3 qt chicken broth hot
1 oz annatto powder
2 oz blended oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a big pan, heat the oil and lightly sweat the ginger and garlic.
2. Add the rice to the pan.
3. Stir until the rice is completely coated with oil.
4. Slowly add broth while stirring. Continue this method until the rice is al dente.
5. Add seasoning.
6. Quickly place the rice on a sheet pan and cool.

…and for the soul: “Arroz Caldo is my soul food,” says Subido. “My mother and business partner Melinda has made this for me all of my life—when I am sick, or feeling blue, it’s the go-to dish to make me feel better again.”

The Pecking Order, 4416 North Clark Street (at Montrose Avenue); 773-907-9900.
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Chef Justin Vrany: Sandwich Me In

It's simple, healthy and oh-so satisfying: Chicken soup with Brown Rice.

4 lb whole chicken
1 gallon water
2 bay leaves
2 carrots
1 onion
1 tbsp flour
½ cup brown rice 

1 cup water
1 tbsp oil (canola or olive)
1. Roast chicken for three hours. Remove most of the meat from bones (save meat for a separate dinner) and save fat from chicken.
2. In a large pot, put chicken bones in a gallon of water with two bay leaves.
3. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and cook for four hours

4. In separate pan, sauté two carrots and one onion in chicken fat until golden.
5. Place a tablespoon of flour in pan while stirring, until a paste forms.
6. Strain stock and let bones come to room temperature.
7. Discard bay leaves and remove meat from bones. Set meat aside

8. Slowly add stock into vegetables and flour mix, one cup at a time. Let mixture thicken and then add another cup until chicken stock is finished. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every fiveminutes.
9. Place reserved meat in soup.
10. Divide rice into six bowls and pour chicken soup over each.

… and for the soul: Vrany is no stranger to a round of “Jingle Bells.” When the Chicago weather gets frightful, he says, “I enjoy cuddling up next to the fireplace with my family and singing Christmas carols.”

Sandwich Me In, 3037 North Clark Street (at Halsted Street); 773-348-3037.
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Chef Melissa Graham: Purple Asparagus

This recipe for Garbure — a thick, stew-like French soup — will take you a little while to make. So pour yourself some Loire Valley red, pump up the Edith Piaf, and get to work!

3 chicken halves
3 lbs chicken backs or wings
1 onion (coarsely chopped)
1 carrot (peeled and coarsely chopped)
1 celery stalk (coarsely chopped)
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig parsley
1 tbsp peppercorns
2 heads garlic (halved horizontally)
3 qts of chicken stock (preferably homemade)
¼ lb white beans
4 slices thick-cut bacon (diced)
3 small leeks or 2 medium leeks (finely chopped)
1 medium carrot or 2 small carrots (diced)
1 celery stalk (diced)
2 turnips, preferably golden (diced)
1 bunch dandelion greens (heavy stems removed and thinly sliced)
¼ cup parsley (finely chopped)

1. Up to five days before you plan on serving the Garbure, and at least a day before, preheat the oven to 450° F.
2. Oil two sheet pans with rimmed sides. Set the chicken halves and garlic halves on one pan and the chicken parts on the other. Sprinkle both with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. Let the chicken cool slightly.
 3. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the softened cloves into a small bowl.
4. Place the squeezed out garlic halves, onion, carrot, celery, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, garlic, and chicken in a large stock pot or the bowl of a slow cooker.
5. Cover with the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook on low for three hours.
6. Transfer the chicken halves to a large pan. Refrigerate when cool.
7. Strain the stock and remove the vegetables and chicken parts.
7. Cool quickly by placing the bowl of strained stock in a large ice bath and refrigerate overnight.
8. Soak the white beans in water to cover by 2 inches overnight or for at least seven hours.
 9. Remove the chicken meat from the skin and bones. Cut into small pieces, discarding skin and bones. Puree the roasted garlic.
10. About one and a half hours before you plan on serving the soup, cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for about five minutes.
11. Add the leeks, carrot, celery, and turnips and cook for about ten minutes or until the vegetables are softened slightly.
12. Pour in reserved broth and add the thyme and drained white beans. 13. Cook for about an hour or until the white beans are softened.
14. Add garlic puree and dandelion greens and cook for about ten minutes.
15. Divide into four to six shallow bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

  …and for the soul: “When the cold winter winds howl, I take shelter in my kitchen baking and exploring new recipes,” Graham says.

Purple Asparagus, 2545 West Diversey Avenue (between Rockwell Street and Maplewood Avenue); 312-906-7622.
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Chef Justin White: Small Bar Division

This recipe for chicken and dumplings isn’t easy, but it has a pretty satisfying twist. When you’re finished making it, you can update your Facebook status to say: “Just made Parisian gnocchi from scratch. Le Bam!”

Braised Chicken Ingredients:
3 tbsp pomace oil
4 lbs chicken legs and thighs, skin on (approximately eight connected legs and thighs)
6 smashed garlic cloves
2 peeled and rough-cut carrots
2 peeled and rough-cut Spanish onion
5 stocks rough-cut celery
2 tbsp whole-toasted black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 gallons chicken stock (homemade or hormone-free store bought)

Soup Broth Ingredients:
Remanding braising liquid
Kosher salt (to taste)
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Vegetable Ingredients:
5 peeled and rough-cut carrots
2 peeled and rough-cut Spanish onions
4 stocks rough-cut celery

Parisian Gnocchi Ingredients:
½ cup chicken stock (homemade or hormone free store bought)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tbsp fine-ground black peppercorns
2 ¾ oz all-purpose flour
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
2 whole eggs

Garnish Ingredients:
Fresh lemon juice
Chopped flat-leaf parsley

Chicken Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325º.
2. Season chicken legs with salt and pepper and allow to come up to room temperature (about 20 minutes).
3. Set a flat-bottom pan to medium-high heat while chicken is warming up.
4. Add pomace oil to pan, and just as the oil begins to smoke, lay the chicken legs, skin-side down, into the pan. (It is important at this point to not over-crowd the pan. Do this in batches if your pan is not large enough to avoid overlapping).
5. Allow chicken to caramelize for six to eight minutes.
6. Turn the legs over and continue cooking for another six to eight minutes or until golden.
7. Remove chicken from pan and place in oven-safe roasting pan.
8. Add garlic, carrot, celery, onion, black peppercorns and bay leaf to the pan, turning the heat down to a medium heat, and sweat until vegetables are shiny, about seven to eight minutes.
9. Cover cooked vegetables with chicken stock and turn heat to high, bringing stock to a boil.
10. Once stock has come to a boil, turn off the heat and pour stock and all other ingredients over seared chicken in oven-safe roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil.
11. Place roasting pan on the middle rack of preheated oven and allow to cook for approximately one hour, or until meat pulls effortlessly from the bone.
12. Pull all meat into bite-size pieces and set aside, cover with plastic wrap.

Broth Directions:
1. Strain remaining braising liquid through a mesh strainer into a soup pot large enough to hold all ingredients for final soup.
2. Set the pot over low heat and skim any fat.
3. Season broth with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and add cut soup vegetables. Leave at a slight simmer.

Parisian Gnocchi Directions:
1. Combine chicken stock, butter, salt and black pepper in a four-cup sauce pan and place over high heat.
2. Bring all ingredients to a boil, add flour and turn heat to low.
3. Stir mixture until dough forms. Cook dough another three to four minutes over low while rolling the dough.
4. When a slight white film shows on the bottom of the pan, remove the dough and place into a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment.
5. Turn mixer to medium speed and add eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next.
6. Once eggs are combined, add tarragon and pour dough into a pastry bag (a gallon zip lock bag will work just as well).
7. Cut a quarter-sized hole in the bottom of the bag. Using a butter knife, cut the dough into the simmering chicken broth and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes or until dumplings have plumped to double their size.
8. Add the reserved chicken meat back to the broth and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a little squeeze of lemon juice in each bowl.

...and for the soul: White stays warm with a variety of toppers (he has a hat collection at home.) Also — as any smart man — he keeps his bar stocked with a bottle of belly-warming whiskey all winter.

Small Bar Division, 2049 West Division Street (at Hoyne Avenue); 773-772-2727.
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Chef Patricio Sandoval: Mercadito

Chef Patricio says that this traditional Mexican dish reminds him of home. Sandoval family, if you’re reading this, we have an opening next week. Shall we come by with an empty bowl?

4 cups dried hominy
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups barbacoa marinade (recipe below)
28 oz. cooked chicken (shredded)
Crispy tostadas (for garnish)
Shredded lettuce (for garnish)
Diced onions (for garnish)
Radish slices (for garnish)
Lime Wedges (for garnish)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add hominy and turn off heat. Let hominy soak overnight.
2. In a large pot, add soaked hominy and cover with cold water, 8-inches above the hominy. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a medium simmer.
3. When water begins to evaporate, add hot water, enough to cover eight inches above hominy.
4. When water evaporates, add chicken stock and continue cooking. Hominy is cooked when it begins to pop.
5. Stir marinade into pot and cook 20 minutes. Add chicken and ladle pozole into bowls.
Serve with crispy tostadas, shredded lettuce, diced onions, radish slices, and lime wedges.

Barbacoa Marinade Ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup guajillo chiles
1 cup ancho chiles
2 oz achiote
8 garlic cloves
1 large onion (diced)

1. In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add chiles and saute in batches, making sure not to burn. When chiles are finished cooking, soak in hot water until plump, then strain mixture.
2. In same pan, sauté garlic and onions until golden, then place pan in 350º oven to roast until soft.
3. Combine chiles, garlic, and onions in a blender and puree, adding enough water to make a thick paste. When well blended, strain through a fine mesh strainer.
Chef’s Note: “This classic winter dish that also makes for great leftovers—some people even say it tastes better after a few days!”

…and for the soul: “Safe to say, Chicago winters are very different from those I saw growing up in Acapulco,” Sandoval says. “What I do know is that Chicago is home. I’ve made friends for a lifetime here in Chicago. Those friends and being able to not only work, but live in the same city as my brothers, makes it a little easier to get through the cold weather.”

Mercadito, 108 West Kinzie Street (at Clark Street); 312-329-9555.
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Chef Curtis Gamble: Bread & Wine

This chicken soup with ginger and sage is just the thing for a head cold — and to make your entire kitchen smell divine.

Braising Ingredients:
4 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on)
1 stalk rough-chopped celery
1 rough-chopped carrot
1 garlic clove, whole
1 bay leaf
Soup Ingredients:
4 braised chicken thighs
1 medium-diced celery stalk
1 medium-diced carrot
1 medium-diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
½ cup acini de pepe (small dried pasta)
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Thigh Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Set a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot over medium heat and heat until 2 tbsp.of oil lightly smokes.
3. Add chicken thighs, skin-side down, working in batches. Make sure not to crowd the pan.
4. Cook until skin is golden brown. Remove thighs from the pan and reserve.
5. In same pan, lightly cook your carrots, onion, celery, garlic and bay leaf until onion is lightly translucent
6. Add the thighs back into the pan and cover two-thirds of the way with water.
7. Place in preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is braised through. Reserve.

Soup Directions:
1. While braised chicken thighs are still warm, pull meat into small pieces that will fit onto a soup spoon.
2. Reserve skin and slice thin. Strain braising liquid into a medium bowl through a fine mesh strainer and reserve.
3. In a medium-size soup pot, heat two tablespoons of oil until it begins to lightly smoke.
4. Add your celery, carrots and onion, and lightly caramelize. This may take a few minutes, so be patient and let the color develop — more color means more flavor.
5. When vegetables are lightly caramelized, add ginger and garlic and lightly sweat.
6. Add sage, thyme and bay leaf, and cook until translucent.
7. Add reserved braised thigh, skin, and braising liquid.
8. Slowly add water until a soup consistency is achieved.
9. Bring to a simmer and add your acini de pepe. Cook for roughly five minutes and taste. Adjust seasoning with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.

…and for the soul: “After working long days, I hustle home from the restaurant to hopefully find my wife and pup still up. The thirty minutes I spend perched next to her with our border collie mix curled up in her lap are the most important moments of my day, keeping me grateful for her and the important things I work so hard for.” All together now: awww.

Bread & Wine, 3732 West Irving Park Road (at Ridgeway Avenue); 773-866- 5266.
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Chef Jess DeGuzman: Sunda New Asian

The word “porridge” always reminds us of fairytales. With its fresh ginger, dark sesame oil, and (surprise!) eggs, this Asian-inspired dish does seem to possess some magical healing properties for the body and soul.

Broth Ingredients:
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup cilantro stems
3 lime rind strips
4 crushed garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 oz sliced ginger
1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped

Porridge Ingredients:
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
1 medium white onion, vertically sliced
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
6 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
3/4 cup cilantro leaves
3/4 cup sliced green onions
6 large hard-cooked eggs, halved  
1. To prepare broth, combine first ten ingredients in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through, skimming off and discarding foam as needed.
3. Strain broth through a fine sieve to yield five cups and discard solids.
6. Remove chicken meat from bones and shred. Discard skin and bones.
 7. To prepare porridge, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and swirl to coat.
8. Add sliced white onion and cook five minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally.
9. Add rice, ginger and garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
10. Add five cups broth and bring to a boil.
11. Cover and cook 35 minutes or until thick and rice begins to break down, stirring occasionally. (Mixture should be the consistency of rice pudding).
12. Stir in chicken and fish sauce and cook for two minutes or until thoroughly heated.
12. Spoon about one cup porridge into each of six bowls. Top each serving with two tablespoons cilantro, two tablespoons green onions, and two egg halves.

…and for the soul: DeGuzman loves his ladybird. He says “getting to spend time with my wife after a hard day’s work” is his personal soul soother.

Sunda New Asian, 110 West Illinois Street (between LaSalle Drive and Clark Street); 312-644-0500.
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Chef Michael Schrader: Urban Union

This Mexican soup is great for winter because It warms the soul with the thoughts we all have about chicken soup and comfort. It also gives you a kick from the lime and chiles and makes you yearn for the beach in Mexico. Cold beer anyone?

1 whole chicken
1 white onion, diced
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1/2 head of red cabbage
3 stems oregano
2 Fresno chillies, shaved into rings
1 bunch cilantro leaves
2 bay leaves
1. Cut the chicken into quarters and cover with water in a large pot, bring to a rolling boil.
2. Using a ladle, skim any of the protein coming to the surface of the pot.
3. Turn the heat down to a light simmer and add onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf. Simmer untill the chicken is falling off the bone and the vegetables are tender.
4. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred all the meat.
5. Return the meat to the pot and season with salt and pepper and add your red chillies and oregano.
6. Garnish the soup with raw shaved cabbage and cilantro.

…and for the soul: "I get through the winter with a lot of rich, braised dishes. Things like pot roast, short ribs, and coq au vin. As always, washed down with copious amounts of red wine!"