Cooking for the first day a bad cold or flu hits you is simple.
With your body’s thermostat acting like it’s found itself in the middle of the Arctic Circle one minute and abandoned in the Sahara Desert the next, all you’re pretty much concerned with is downing as much medication as humanly possible and finding a position on the bed (covers on? covers off? where do the tissues go?) that will actually let you go to sleep.
Food is the absolute last thing your body is concerned with.
It’s the day the fever breaks though, that you surface and recollect the memory of hunger, but also realize that standing upright for an extended cooking session would be a colossally bad idea. (Nor is there desire to wash the collected debris of said hypothetical session.)
A one pot meal would be ideal.
Soup sounded fantastic.
Rummaging around in the pantry cupboard revealed that the only clear soup left was a can of Campbell’s borsch soup, which sufficed for two meals, but to this miserable soul’s dismay, there was no more chicken noodle soup or anything that might be loosely converted into something vaguely resembling it… except maybe a packet of instant Tonkotsu ramen noodles (but urgh… a sodium-laced soup when sickly didn’t sound appealing at all.)
Therein lies the advantage of knowing how to cook and improvise with ingredients to hand.
It was back to the fridge, where the first thing that stood out was a fresh box of miso (bought with initial plans of seasoning salmon for grilling, before illness so rudely interrupted.)
Ok. If I couldn’t have chicken soup, I might perhaps have miso soup. That sounded reasonable.
But miso soup without dashi? Was it even possible? I surely wasn’t going to run out for bonito flakes.
Some quickly Googled references suggested vegetarian miso soup was indeed possible, all you needed was a vegetable broth of some kind.
Ok. We could do this. There is an onion here. We have some garlic. There is even some young ginger. Even if it was just aromatics in a bot of boiling water, to which miso would be added later, we were going to construct a clear soup broth of some kind.
Set out one pot of water to boil.
Coarsely chop an onion, and I mean coarsely, because one is sick here and has no finesse left.
Garlic is said to have antibacterial properties of some sort, right? Skins and chops a couple of cloves.
Ginger is usually a little too spicy for my preference, but you know, miso is said to pair well with ginger, and this cold really needs a dose of ginger… so, what the heck, we’ll slice an inch of young ginger to go along.
Sauteing the aromatics would probably bring out more flavor, because one is desperate here, so… urgh, let’s just use one more pot – a nonstick one with some butter.
In go the aromatics, to be mostly ignored while one searches through the fridge once more.
Oh hey, there is some celery! And underneath, some carrots!
Perfect, we have the standard western soup trifecta of onion, celery and carrots, after all.
In they go into the saute pot, haphazardly chopped as well.
And what is this, in an as yet untouched plastic container? A glorious piece of soy-sauce roasted chicken breast from a whole chicken takeout a day or two before the plague struck down the household.
Looks like chicken soup is back on the menu.
Cut into chunks and lightly saute that as well. Dump the entire contents of the now-sauted soup stuff into the pot of boiling water.
Reuse the saute pot to boil up some thin pasta noodles with some salted water.
Dump noodles into the now simmering soup.
Wash the saute pot. We’re back down to one pot of soup, which we would ideally boil until everything is soft and the flavors have come out into the broth, but really only lasts 30 mins or so before one gets terribly hungry about the whole affair.
Turn the heat off and taste the broth – yep, still needs salt and umami, since no lavishly rendered stock was involved in this preparation.
In comes the miso to save the day. (Boiling miso is a no-no, which is why we remove the heat first.) Add a spoonful or two to taste until it’s just right.
This soup will win no style awards, nor is it the absolute best rendition of its kind, but you know what… when you’re sick and miserable… it’s good enough.
Eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with leftovers to go in the fridge for the next day. (The photo is pretty much the leftovers, when I regained enough clarity of thought at midnight to think of snapping a picture.)
And the flavors get seriously better over time. (Or maybe that’s just my nose un-stuffing itself from all the garlic and gingery goodness.)
TL;DR: Onion, garlic, ginger, celery, carrot, chicken breast. Saute. Add to boiling water and lower heat to somewhere between boil and simmer. Add cooked pasta noodles. Go for 30-60 minutes of boil/simmer. Take off heat. Add miso to taste.