The Proper Care and Feeding of Sick Boyfriends

February 4, 2013 48 Comments

MB4finalTwo weeks ago Hannah left work early, feeling like she’d been hit by a truck. Every limb ached, her throat was sore and she was rapidly becoming extremely congested. Stumbling out of a cab, she climbed the three flights to her apartment and fell into bed still wearing her work clothes. When her boyfriend Josh heard she was sick, he came over right away to make her some tea and tuck her in. He stayed the night to take care of her. She warned him, “Stay away, I don’t want to get you sick!” But Josh just smiled and said, “No can do.” (Note to Hannah: Marry that boy!)

Several days later Hannah was back on her feet, albeit still coughing and speaking with a scratchy voice. Just as she returned to work, Josh complained of a very sore throat. Hannah felt terrible, knowing she was the source of this viral crud. She called me up and asked me what she could cook for him that would help him feel better. 

That’s easy. Matzo ball soup. 

Over the years I have tried dozens of recipes in hopes of perfecting chicken soup. I have made it with noodles, rice and dumplings. They’re all good but for my kids, nothing could compare with matzo balls for comfort. I’ve experimented at great length in perfecting those too, and though I am not Jewish, I would proudly serve my matzo balls to anyone. 

Studies show that chicken soup reduces upper respiratory cold symptoms, probably by inhibiting the movement of white blood cells. In any case, it works!

Here is my favorite recipe for chicken noodle soup, which can be made in 90 minutes. It’s adapted from an Edna Lewis recipe, and once you try it, you’ll never make it the old way again. If you want to substitute matzo balls for noodles, make them first – the mixture needs to chill before you boil them. 

This is some serious Girl Game right here. 

Best Ever Chicken Noodle Soup

Adapted from Edna Lewis

Makes about 4 quarts

Ingredients 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil 

1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), breast removed and split, remaining chicken cut into 2-inch pieces 

(Note: I cut up my own chicken, but if you don’t know how or don’t own a cleaver, any butcher will do this for you. I sent Hannah to Whole Foods, where they happily complied.)

2 medium onions, cut into medium dice 

3 quarts water 

Table salt 

2 bay leaves 

1 large carrot , peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick 

1 medium rib celery , sliced 1/4-inch thick 

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 

2 cups egg noodles (3 ounces), preferably wide 

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves 

Ground black pepper

Instructions

 

1. Heat oil in large soup kettle. When oil shimmers and starts to smoke, add chicken breast halves; sauté until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add half of chopped onions to kettle; sauté until colored and softened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl; set aside. Add half of chicken pieces; sauté until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with onions. Sauté remaining chicken pieces. Return onions and chicken pieces (excluding breasts) to kettle. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes. You should have lots of brown fond on the bottom of the pan – that’s where much of the flavor will come from. 

2. Increase heat to high; add water along with both breast halves, 2 teaspoons salt, and bay leaves. Return to simmer, then cover and barely simmer until chicken breasts are cooked and broth is rich and flavorful, about 20 minutes. Make sure you’ve scraped up all the brown bits into the broth – it should be a nice brown color. 

3. Remove chicken breasts from kettle; set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove skin from breasts, then remove meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces; discard skin and bone. Strain broth; discard bones. Skim fat from broth, reserving 2 tablespoons. (Broth and meat can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 days.) 

4. Return soup kettle to medium-high heat. Add reserved chicken fat. Add remaining onions, along with carrot and celery; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, along with broth and chicken; simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors meld, 10 to 15 minutes. Add noodles and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings, stir in parsley, and serve. 

Matzo Balls

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 10

Ingredients

 

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat, at room temperature

(Note: I have found that the best matzo balls are made with rendered chicken fat.  Do not substitute! Empire sells it in a tub or you can buy it from a butcher or large supermarket.)

7/8 cup matzo meal

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons salt

Instructions

 

1. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and chicken fat until combined.

2. Whisk in water and salt.

3. Add matzo meal and whisk until combined.

4. Chill mixture for 90 minutes. 

5. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.

6. With wet hands, form one and a half inch balls and set on parchment lined baking sheet.

7. Using a large spoon, slide each ball into the boiling water. Keep in mind that the balls will double in size, so be sure you use a large enough pot.

8. After 3 minutes or so, when the balls rise to the top, turn the heat to medium and cook, covered, for 45 minutes.

9. Carefully remove matzo balls onto plate. I like to keep the matzo balls separate and add them to the soup just long enough to heat before serving. This prevents them from disintegrating in the soup.

 

Now baby that sweet boy and give him whatever he wants. By the way, this strategy would not go amiss in the early stages if things are going well. I have always found that the feeding of men makes them very commitment minded. 

 

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  • Russ in Texas

    I’ll do you one better than that, and it’s even easier:

    Hungarian Beef Stew
    1. One big piece of beef, fat on, quality irrelevant, bone in in possible
    2. One big onion
    3. A couple of carrots and similar veggies
    4. One reasonably-sized stewpot

    How to prepare:
    1. Serve boyfriend large mug of tea (oregano tea if you can swing it and he’ll put up with you), liberally honeyed.
    2. Put everything in the stew pot with water.
    3. Simmer for four hours while he’s taking his first “I’m dying now” sleep.
    4. Broth will be a clear golden color. Serve to boyfriend in mug, then give another giant mug of honeyed stuff.
    5. Remove beef (which will now be just stupidly tender) and put in plate/bowl in fridge, serve later with sliced veggies on side when his throat isn’t a disaster area.

  • OffTheCuff

    Have to agree with this one. My wife’s a tiny bit Jewish and this has always been one of her things. Years ago I got tired of wasting poultry carcasses, so I started making soup from that. She added her matzo, and the rest was history. I don’t think we even bother with the noodles, it’s so good.

  • Lokland

    Matzo, never heard of ‘em. New experiment.
    Thank you.

    Btw, Hannah.
    Good girlfriend, good job.

  • http://whoism3.wordpress.com M3

    When i get an upper respiratory infection.. i reach for the LUNG BRUSH™

    (h/t John Candy, may he RIP)

  • Russ in Texas

    M3: or, if we’re talking topically-appropriate comedy, Chris Rock on casual… erm, “dates.”

  • INTJ

    Lol for a second there I thought you were talking about Hannah from Girls. :D

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      Lol for a second there I thought you were talking about Hannah from Girls.

      Haha! Oh man, I didn’t even make that association. I changed the names anyway, but Girls is probably why Hannah popped into my head.

  • http://www.christianfreethought.com/ IrishFarmer

    A lot of guys have the stereotype of the woman who hates taking care of her man in their heads, so girls can get mega scout points for this one.

  • Ion

    I’ve had Matzo soup millions of times, and love it so I’m definitely going to attempt this recipe!

    Bajan custom for colds: cerasee bush, turmeric, ginger, lemon warm it and drink it. I also drink turmeric tea when I feel crappy, some people use it for clearing up skin and if you need energy too. Basically I put about 6 teaspoons in any tea, a little honey (optional) and sip it hot while stirring.

  • Sai

    YEAH~

  • SayWhaat

    I changed the names anyway, but Girls is probably why Hannah popped into my head.

    And here I thought it was because Hannah was a Jewish name. :P

  • David

    “This is some serious Girl Game right here.” – Yes. I’d be floored if my GF came out with this. Very impressive – a girl who does this will set herself apart.

  • http://www.4stargazer.wordpress.com Anacaona

    Hubby got a box of Matzo Meal and I had no idea what to do with it…I’m copying this and surprising him. :)

  • samayam

    Hot dog, I love swiping pages from the Girl Game Playbook! Any girl gamin’ me, though, better put plenty of garlic and jalapeno in it, that’ll fix ya’ (me) right up.

  • http://7thseriesgongshow.blogspot.com Mr. Nervous Toes

    The key to a good chicken stock is garam masala.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      The key to a good chicken stock is garam masala.

      Really? In what amount? Share your secret!

  • Rickenbacker

    Good read. This is the type of behavior I carefully screen a potential girlfriend for. Not how she acts when everything is OK but how she acts when something is not.

  • J

    Great post for flu season!!!

    DH brought me deli chicken soup when I had a summer cold, along with lemon curd, tea and scones. That, and the fact that he didn’t mind seeing me with a red nose and chapped lips, impressed me enough to marry him.

    The best chicken soup has lots feet and wings in it. They are both very gelatinous. Feet are hard to find, but Hispanic grocers carry them. I throw in thighs if I want some meat in the soup, but never breasts. I don’t saute any of the meat or chop the onions. I just drop in one whole onion still in the skin (adds color to the soup) and one quartered onion. I fish the onions out before I serve the soup. Sometimes, I’ll throw in peppercorns, dill fronds, bay leaves and thick slices of parsnip and/or the woody parts of asparagus stalks or leek greens if I have them left over from other dishes. I fish all that out before I serve the soup as well.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      The best chicken soup has lots feet and wings in it. They are both very gelatinous. Feet are hard to find, but Hispanic grocers carry them.

      That’s an awesome tip.

  • http://dannyfrom504.wordpress.com dannyfrom504

    girls cook for their dude? what the deuce!!!!! when did this happen. i sure as hell never got the memo. hmmmm.

  • Fifth Season

    Is it crude of me to observe that Josh could have avoided all this IF he had the foresight to put on a surgical mask and swimming goggles (or other airtight eyewear) BEFORE taking care of Hannah, as well as refraining from kisses and other possibly infectious displays of affection while washing his hands regularly? He could still administer her food, medication, and reassurances that way. I’m bringing this up because I can’t help but remember a scene from the 1995 movie “Outbreak,” directed by Wolfgang Petersen, where the “Patient Zero” of a horrendously lethal strain of hemorrhagic fever unknowingly infects his girlfriend with a kiss.

    On a less macabre note, if Josh and Hannah get married and one of them is sick in the future, it could happen that they can’t afford for both of them to take sick days at the same time, so if one of them gets sick it would make better sense for the uninfected person to take the measures I mentioned earlier. There are some things that are better off not shared, even in an intimate relationship, after all.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Fifth Season

      Is it crude of me to observe that Josh could have avoided all this IF he had the foresight to put on a surgical mask and swimming goggles (or other airtight eyewear) BEFORE taking care of Hannah, as well as refraining from kisses and other possibly infectious displays of affection while washing his hands regularly?

      No not crude, but perhaps less than romantic. These two are definitely in the limerence stage. He took his chances. He probably didn’t realize just how sick she was going to get, though.

  • Society’s Disposable Son

    I’ve never had a girl cook me soup while sick, but one time I was at a girl’s place and during the night I broke out a fever and she had no tylenol or ibuprofen so she got up like every 20 mins and put cold wash cloths on me for a few hours during the night even though she had to work the next day. Needless to say I was impressed but I got a LJBF text the next day.

    Bummer….but yeah, serious girl game for sure.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      she got up like every 20 mins and put cold wash cloths on me for a few hours during the night even though she had to work the next day. Needless to say I was impressed but I got a LJBF text the next day.

      How incongruous. That really surprises me.

  • taterearl

    Heh…last time I was around a gal that was sick I still drank out of the same glass she had…and still didn’t get sick. One of my DHV is having an immune system of titanium thanks to vitamins, exercise, and getting enough sleep.

  • FeralEmployee

    I know my 35’ish old sister can’t cook. The best she comes up with is to give her boyfriend the ingredients (often obtained for free from my father’s potager) and let him do the cooking.

  • J

    girls cook for their dude? what the deuce!!!!! when did this happen. i sure as hell never got the memo. hmmmm

    It is obvious that you, sir, have never read my banana cream pie story.

  • J

    That’s an awesome tip.

    Thanks. It sounds gross, I know, but it’s fantasstic.

  • SayWhaat

    It is obvious that you, sir, have never read my banana cream pie story.

    Do share! :)

  • J

    I hate bananas. My mother used to claim that as a toddler I loved bananas. Now they tell you to cut bananas into coin-sized slices before giving them to kids, but my mom gave me a whole banana and let me sit out on the stoop to eat it. I shoved the whole thing in my mouth, and my mom had to dig n out of my throat with her fingernails. I have absolutely no recollection of this, but to this day even the smell of bananas gags me.

    DH loves banana cream pie. He mentioned this when we then going together, so I made him one and brought it over to his house. He immediately cut himself a piece and started to cut me one too. I declined and told him the story. He was impressed that I suppressed the gag reflex and made him this thing. It was an act of selfless love.

  • Society’s Disposable Son

    @ Susan 26

    She cited too many differences.
    1 she was on a hippy juicing diet, I wasn’t.
    2 She couldn’t understand my taste in music.
    3 Claimed I was anti-social (even though I had to prod her to leave the house when we hung out).

    I should mention she was 19 at the time. That probably had something to do with it.

  • SayWhaat

    J, that banana story is really sweet. :)

    Well. Not the part where you almost choked on a banana. But the rest of it was sweet. Lol.

  • Fifth Season

    Susan,

    Yeah, but even limerence shouldn’t get in the way of good infection control. Love can’t solve everything, after all–hearing something like “I love you–I thought you would understand that I can’t help but share this part of me” would be salt in the wound for me if I caught something incurable like Herpes Simplex or HIV.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Fifth Season

      Your point is valid – romance doesn’t prevent infection. I do think that the dynamic is quite different when the risk is a cold vs. HIV though…

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  • http://www.4stargazer.wordpress.com Anacaona

    DH loves banana cream pie. He mentioned this when we then going together, so I made him one and brought it over to his house. He immediately cut himself a piece and started to cut me one too. I declined and told him the story. He was impressed that I suppressed the gag reflex and made him this thing. It was an act of selfless love.

    Heh similar story except I have a phobia to pork meat not accidents with it just me being me… still cooked bacon for hubby when he went to visit me before we got married. Maybe i won him over with that? I cook it for him every weekend and I found an Amish breakfast recipe that comes with it that I plan to cook as soon as William let me.

    BTW
    Steak was half price yesterday and I bought a couple of pound any good recipes?

  • http://7thseriesgongshow.blogspot.com Mr. Nervous Toes

    This is my chicken soup recipe:

    Ginger-Curry Chicken Soup

    Ingredients
    • 1L chicken stock
    • Can, whole tomatoes
    • 8 Chicken thighs, finely chopped
    • 3 Chorizo sausage, sliced
    • 3 Carrots, sliced
    • 2 stalks Celery, diced
    • 1 Spanish onion, finely diced
    • 6 cloves Garlic, minced
    • 1 large piece Ginger, minced
    • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
    • bunch Cilanto or fresh Coriander, chopped (optional)
    • Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, marjoram), to taste
    • Garam marsala, 2 heaping tablespoons (REALLY IMPORTANT)
    • Sambel oelek or other hot pepper paste, to taste (~ tbl.)
    • Butter or ghee, 1/2 cup

    Directions
    1. Roast chicken and chorizo in oven at 425 °F until skin is golden brown. Remove and reserve liquid.
    2. Melt ghee in stock pot with onions, ginger, and garlic. Add spices and stir fry until onion softens. Add carrots and then other vegetables (usually recommend draining tomatoes and slicing them).
    3. Add stock, drippings from roast chicken thighs, and 1 L water or enough to cover all the solids.
    4. Remove skins from thighs and add to pot. Slice Chorizo while chicken cools, then debone thighs, chop meat into bite-sized chunks, and add chicken meat, sliced roasted sausage, and chicken boats to the stock pot.
    5. Add all other ingredients and simmer until finished.
    6. Remove chicken skins and bones from soup and serve.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Mr. Nervous Toes

      That sounds so delicious! I’m going to make it for Sunday evening. Thank you for sharing the recipe! (I will report back.)

  • J

    Steak was half price yesterday and I bought a couple of pound any good recipes?

    What kind of steak?

  • http://www.4stargazer.wordpress.com Anacaona

    What kind of steak?
    boneless cross rib

  • INTJ

    @ Fifth Season

    Yeah, but even limerence shouldn’t get in the way of good infection control. Love can’t solve everything, after all–hearing something like “I love you–I thought you would understand that I can’t help but share this part of me” would be salt in the wound for me if I caught something incurable like Herpes Simplex or HIV.

    I hope you can see the difference between a temporary ailment like the common cold and a long term thing like HIV…

  • JuTR

    I think getting a cold and getting over it improves your immune system. It might actually be advantageous to endure it. Not so much with HIV.

    And on foods, I eat strictly low carb. M

  • JuTR

    Gah, laptop posting issues.

    I meant to say I eat low carb, and Mr. Nervous Toes, your recipe is on the docket to cook, sans carrots, with probably more celery and onion for the stock. That sounds like a delicious and very healthy meal!

  • Fifth Season

    @40

    People have different tolerances to diseases, so it’s perfectly possible that the caretaker partner could suffer more from the disease if infected. As I outlined in an earlier comment, it’s perfectly possible that both members of a couple can’t afford to both be sidelined by the same illness if the finances and sick days are tight. And who says you can’t act kindly behind a surgical mask and swimming goggles?

  • J

    I actually had to look up the term “boneless cross rib.” I’ve never heard it referred to that way. I found this which looks delish to me:

    http://www.ehow.com/video_12246947_beef-shoulder-steak.html

    It a tougher cut of meat. Cooking in wine or tomato puree will tenderize it. I’d also suggest a Swiss steak recipe like this:

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/swiss-steak-recipe/index.html

  • http://www.4stargazer.wordpress.com Anacaona

    @J
    Those look delicious! Can’t wait to do the shoulder steak one.
    I actually got a little impatient and looked for a Swiss slow cooker steak recipe and I did this one: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/Swiss-Steak-Slow-Cooker
    Very good!

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  • J

    @Ana

    That looks yummy. Swiss steak usually has tomato sauce in it, but you can’t go wrong with cream of mushroom soup and that’s a cut of meat that cooks well in a slow cooker.

    This one’s a cream of mushroom soup based favorite at my house:

    http://www.campbellskitchen.com/recipes/recipedetails?recipeid=25629&fm=internal_search

    I add some chopped sauteed mushrooms to the burgers themselves, leave out the Worchester, substitute plain breadcrumbs, and add Lowry’s Seasoning Salt. Then serve over noodles or mashed potatoes.

    One of the commenters adds sherry. That sounds good too.