Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 23, 2014

Tammy Duckworth’s Feel Good Regimen

Summer colds suck. Good thing Rep. Tammy Duckworth has a secret weapon for a speedy recovery.

When her hubby fell ill over the weekend, the Illinois Democrat immediately sprung into action, whipping up a batch of her savory cure-all.

“I don’t normally follow a precise recipe — I just keep adding things to taste,” Duckworth said of her never-quite-the-same approach to cooking. The aforementioned pick-me-up prepared for her couch-ridden mate bears many of the familiar ingredients — chicken, mixed vegetables, broth — one’s own parents might have used to soothe away internal ickiness, but also features a few signature touches.

Duckworth’s Chicken Soup

1 heaping tablespoon minced (or finely chopped) garlic; jarred is fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups water
1 large whole chicken breast, about 1.5 pounds (Bone-in is better, but boneless is easier to use.)
34-ounce box chicken broth
1 large onion, cut lengthwise into strips
4-5 carrots, chopped
4-5 ribs of celery, cut crosswise into quarter-inch slices
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons light soy sauce (You can use Japanese soy sauce like Kikkoman, but I prefer Chinese style for this soup.)
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups pasta, cooked separately until al dente and drained. Reserve. (I like rotini or shells but any shaped pasta will do.)

Preparation
Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until lightly browned and softened.
Add water and whole chicken breast.
Cover and bring to a low boil for 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove chicken and pull apart into shredded chunks; discard bones. Return meat to boiling liquid.
Add chicken broth, carrots, onions, parsley and celery.
Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add soy sauce and sugar one tablespoon at a time to taste. Add more soy to taste, but be careful with the sugar. It can be too much very easily. The sugar just adds a little depth of flavor to the soup, it shouldn’t make the soup taste sweet.
Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. (I like a little pep in my soup, so I always add the pepper.)
Spoon desired amount of pasta into bowl, top off with as much soup as you like and a little garnish of fresh parsley if desired.
Serve with Ritz crackers on the side.

“I add soy sauce to everything,” Duckworth said of her penchant for the fermented flavor enhancer. The rest of the production is modeled after the soul-satisfying meals she once slurped at a long-since gone eatery.

“There used to be this really awesome Jewish deli outside of Naval Air Station Glenview in Chicago where my Army Reserves helicopter unit was stationed. We would go get lunch there drill weekends. They made the best chicken soup,” she recalled. “I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since.”

Her husband, meanwhile, is a stickler about his accompaniments.

“It’s important to have the Ritz crackers on the side,” Duckworth stressed. “I once tried to substitute Saltines and he was sweet, but definitely disappointed.”

When she’s feeling under the weather, Duckworth seeks out her own internal steam bath.

“I actually crave a Thai noodle soup that is usually sold off of street carts or made at home very simply,” she said of the pho-style medley featuring shredded chicken, garlic “and lots of fresh basil.” Duckworth likes to make a few adjustments to achieve maximum potency.

“I always doctor it up with fish sauce, vinegar with chilies and a little bit of sugar,” she said, asserting that the hot peppers typically make short work of any lingering stuffiness.

On any given day, Duckworth said she prefers to fuel up with turkey chili — “It’s easy to make, reheats really well and is a great hit of protein to keep me going,” she said — and balances things out by snacking on the dried fruit (apple and apricot slices are the norm) and shelf-stable cheeses typically tucked into her belongings.

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