At-Home Chef: Liquid Gold

After partying the holidays away, January is the season of sick – congestion, stuffy noses, body aches. No matter if the people around sneeze into their elbows, blow their noses in the bathroom, or slather themselves with Purell, chances are one of your friends or coworkers is going to pass along a winter bug.

Everyone has their own flu routine – my husband likes to pick up a couple bottles of Nyquil, some really soft tissues, and crawl into bed until it passes. I like to make chicken soup and, while it’s simmering, place my head over the pot with a towel for a savory steam bath.

Arguably, the best chicken soup in town is the golden liquid found at Katzinger’s Delicatessen (475 S Third St.). Clearly food sage Ted Allen and the Food Network agree, as the German Village deli’s signature soup was featured on the channel’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, alongside their towering reuben. In charge of creating this magical elixir are two of Katzinger’s kitchen manager’s, Seth Wensinger and Ronanda Perkins.

Wensinger has been around kitchens since he was in college, but jumped aboard the cooking train at an early age.

“When I was nine years old, I saw one of the Ginsu knife infomercials and asked for a specialty set that made fancy garnishes – birds out of apples and stuff,” he recalled.

Sitting in the busy corner shop, wearing a Warhol-esque Matzo Ball soup can T-shirt, Wensinger noted that one of the reasons the chicken soup is so good is that it’s made using the whole chicken, not just chicken breasts.

“It tastes rich and salty – from the whole chicken, you get flavors from the dark meat, from the bones, and marrow.”

Perkins adds that by leaving the skin in, all the fat melts into the stock. A single whisk earring bounces as she describes her favorite way to enjoy the chicken soup.

“I like the mish-mash soup option – it’s noodles and a matzo ball.”

The mind-blower: there’s no actual chicken in their famous chicken soup. It’s a simple, deep, stock with your choice of carbohydrate. This presentation reaches back to the chicken soup traditional in Jewish culinary history – wanting to stretch chicken into more than one meal, the stock was made, and then the chicken meat saved for another dish. At the deli, the meat is used in its addictive chicken salad.

Nicknamed “Jewish penicillin,” chicken soup does seem to have contributing factors to lessen the severity of colds or flu. The soup keeps mucus moving – ick – as well as helps work against inflammation. For Wensigner, there’s no need to get technical about it: the soup “just makes you feel good.”•

Action Plan
In a large stockpot, place five gallons water, two fluid ounces salt, three onions, and three four-pound chickens, cut in half. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer for one-and-a-half hours. Cut the onion against the grain so all the onion juices are unlocked.

While the chickens are simmering, clean, peel and dice 1/2 pound carrots, as well as 1/2 pound celery.

When the chicken is done, take out of the liquid and set aside. Add the carrots and celery, five whole bay leaves, three whole cloves, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and seven whole peppercorns. Simmer for another one-to-two hours.

Pull the chicken from the bones and set aside. Add the bones back into the stock.

When time is up, strain the stock. What is left is the liquid base of your chicken soup. This can also be frozen.

• For chicken noodle soup, simply cook up some egg noodles and add them to the warm broth at serving time. For matzo ball soup, buy some matzo mix at the store, boil ‘em up, and add them at serving time as well.