Lemon-Chili Chicken Soup

Hello, friends.  I am sick.  Slobbery, sniveling, and sick.  As I sat half-delirious in my statistics class yesterday (not only because I was sick, but because, well, statistics), all I wanted to do was crawl into a nice warm hole with a fuzzy blanket and a piping hot bowl of soup.  I may or may not have daydreamed about hot, luscious steam pouring over my face, and an intensely flavored broth slipping down my throat, instead of paying attention to lecture... And indeed, this soup finally took shape in my mind and I was hell-bent on making it.  I perused the grocery store shelves for longer than is appropriate, then trudged back to John's apartment with my arms and backpack full of goodies for the days to come.  When I want comfort food, I want comfort food.  Lots of it.

One peanut-and-raspberry-jam sandwich to restore my strength, several tissues, and much stirring later, my panacea, elixir, nectar of the gods, nomnoms, what have you, emerged from a veil of mouth-watering steam.  While I was pleased with the result, I've tweaked the recipe for you below to reflect what in restrospect I would've done differently.  Whenever I get around to making this soup again I shall adjust it accordingly.  Perhaps all yee sick little ducklings out there can experiment too, and let me know how it turns out.

Lemon-Chili Chicken Soup

2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
~1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
1 lemon
6 scallions
1 small red chili
2 stalks lemon grass
~2 inch knob fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
~10 cups water
2 tablespoons honey
~1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 tablespoons soy sauce
~1/2 Napa cabbage
~1 generous handful snow peas
4 oz vermicelli noodles

Warm the oil over medium-high to high heat until it begins to ripple.  Season the skin-side of the chicken with salt, then place carefully into the hot oil, skin-side down.  Season the other side of the chicken, then prepare the aromatics.  Quarter the lemon and scrape out the seeds.  Chop the roots off 4 of the scallions, then chop them in half width-wise.  Cut the ginger into 4 even pieces, and the lemon grass into 3.  Don't bother peeling either the ginger or the garlic.  Toss the lemon, scallions, ginger, lemon grass, garlic, and chili into the hot oil with the chicken.  Make sure the chili is in contact with the oil so that it chars.  Once the chicken has browned sufficiently, ~10 minutes, pour in the water.  This isn't an exact amount, so use your judgment, but you want to end up with ~8 cups of broth.

Bring the mixture up to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add in the honey, Sriracha, and soy sauce, and simmer for ~20 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Remove the chicken from the pot once it's cooked and let cool.  Once it's reached a temperature where you won't burn your hands, separate the skin and bones from the meat.  I pulled the breast off the bone, then picked out all the other meat from the cartilage and between the bones.  Reserve the meat and add the other items back into the pot.  I only ended up using one full breast, plus the scattered other bits of meat from both breasts, in the final product, so now I have a poached chicken breast in the fridge waiting to be used for something else yummy.

Once the chicken skin and bones are back in the pot, let the broth simmer for ~20 more minutes (it had simmered ~20 minutes before I added these things back in).  You'll want to taste the broth to make sure you've extracted enough flavor and that the seasonings are right.  Adjust the amount of honey, soy sauce, and Sriracha as needed.

Strain the broth through a fine-mesh seive to extract the solids.  Return the broth to the stove, and bring it back up to a boil.  Add the rice noodles, then let them cook ~3 minutes.  I used scissors to cut up the unweildy strands as they cooked and became pliable, but that's up to you.  Once the noodles have cooked, shut off the heat, then add in the chicken (having been pulled apart into bite-sized pieces), chopped cabbage, snow peas, and remaining 2 scallions (chopped finely).

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