French Fridays with Dorie: Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup and getting the grumpies out

Chicken soup can get the grumpies out. Who knew.

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I was grumpy.

Having successfully fought off an impending migraine all morning, I had left work early, so that I would have time to rest my eyes for a bit, cook the soup (for French Fridays with Dorie), make gougères for my book club meeting, get a shower, and get to book club in plenty of time.

Then I sat down “for a minute” and woke up hours later, late for book club, and late even for dinner, which I almost always serve at 7pm.

soup with garnishes
Clockwise from top left: mint, soup, bean sprouts, Thai basil

As you can see, I managed to make the soup. And I also managed to calm myself down from my frantic “Oh, no!” freakout when I awoke and realized all my evening’s plans were ruined.

I blame cancer. Or, rather, I should say I thank cancer.

When the doctor diagnosed me with thyroid cancer in 2007, it was a weird shift. My life wasn’t in any danger, and I won’t die from thyroid cancer, but for the next few years, I could no longer take for granted that I would have any physical energy at any specific time. Between the surgeries, the wild hormonal shifts, and the odd radioactive-iodine protocol, I never knew from day to day whether I’d be peppy or completely exhausted.

At first, this made me cry and rail at a body that was letting me down. And then I got philosophical, as I usually do, and decided that there were two reactions I could have to this, since having energy exactly when I wanted it wasn’t an option: I could continue to overschedule my life, feel exhausted all the time, and probably hurt my recovery; or I could cut WAY back on all my commitments, let the people in my life know I have new limitations, and spend a lot more time resting and “doing nothing” than my previous life and its ambitions would allow me.

So I got up, told James that dinner would be ready when it was ready (he managed to console himself with a baguette and some brie left over from yesterday’s dinner), made a lovely chicken stock in the pressure cooker from a chicken carcass, some veggies, and a pound of chicken feet — hush! it’s gross, but good — and set to work doing the prep for the soup.

By the time I had chopped the onion, garlic, and ginger; gathered the spices; started the soup; washed and prepped the herbs; and juiced a few limes, I was feeling all mellow and fine.

Cooking heals me in a way that is almost spiritual. It gives me a sense of beauty and usefulness. It feeds all my senses. And it literally nourishes me and the family that I love.

That’s a lot of benefit out of that little bowl of soup, don’t you think?

soup

[Changes I made to Dorie’s recipe: James bought a huge boneless chicken breast that weighed twice what the recipe called for, so I just used it all. Chopped, not shredded, because it was so big it didn’t get done in the 20 minutes. Also, I juiced all the limes I had and only got about 2.5 tablespoons of juice, so I tossed the lime halves into the hot soup for about 5 minutes and it really added some lime flavor to the thing.]

You can see a TON of other entries in this week’s Leave Your Link post. You can also follow FFwDorie on Twitter (@FFwDorie). Also, if you’re local, please consider joining me and some other folks when Dorie comes to Omnivore Books on food in San Francisco this Saturday; I’ll be taking some gougères, and we’d love to see you!

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Author: Serene

I run The Mom Food Project, which was born out of love for my mom and a desire to preserve the recipes of my childhood, which didn't actually exist in written form until I quizzed my mom and wrote the recipes down.

12 thoughts on “French Fridays with Dorie: Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup and getting the grumpies out”

  1. I always tell my family ‘you can eat when I’m done making it’ to take the pressure off. They don’t care…I seem to put ‘timing dinner’ pressures on myself more than they do. This was wonderful soup! Yours looks amazing.
    Trevor Sis Boom

    1. Mostly, I like having a “dinner time”. It seems to reduce stress on me most of the time, because I know what to expect, and mostly do dinner prep on auto-pilot. But some days, it’s just not happening, and fortunately, as you said, I seem to be the only one who cares. :-)

      And thanks!

  2. Such a powerful story. I’m so jealous that you’ll be meeting Dorie this Saturday! I’m not sure how to cook chicken feet but I’ve seen them in the Chinese supermarket and my boyfriend adores them so I might have to learn how at some point!

    1. Thanks so much. I did meet her last weekend at BlogHer Food, and she was the picture of graciousness. I expect more of the same tomorrow.

      I only use chicken feet for stock (boil or pressure cook for a good long time, strain them out, throw them away), but I’ve had them at dim sum restaurants and liked them, while finding the texture to be weird and gelatinous. Hope you’ll post about it if you cook them! :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing your story- I think we would all benefit from slowing down our busy pace and actually taking care of ourselves! Your soup is beautiful- I love the sound of your homemade chicken stock. Jealous that you’re meeting Dorie!

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