MARCUS POP FOOD: (Almost) Spring Fever, Chicken Soup Recipe Included

MARCUS POP FOOD By Marcus Samuelsson

Watching the seasons transition is exciting, especially when your winding down from a tough winter like we just experienced in New York. But it also means fickle weather, and getting sick is as breezy as the air outside.

Catching a cold or the flu is tough for anyone out of high school but it's especially hard for a chef, like me.

It completely ruins your sense of smell and taste, crucial elements for being a good cook.

As I see it, getting sick screws with your job, your livelihood, and I try to avoid it at all costs.

For those of us who only get ill occasionally, it's a reminder of how lucky we are for our overall health and how important it is to respect our bodies and create balance in life.

I love working out and playing football on the weekends, and with how busy times are right now, I'm realizing how important physical activity is, not just for my body but my mind.

Stress creates the ultimate breeding ground for germs, but a little R&R is a great remedy. It's easy to neglect that kind of stuff when its crunch time but those are the times when they're most needed.

And, of course, a good diet is key. The minute I begin to feel the slightest bit sick, I start loading up on herbal teas, ginger, garlic and making lots of chicken soup. These foods help my body stay fueled.

My favorite recipe to make when I'm feeling a bit rundown is this Latin take on chicken soup, a dish I learned from one of the old cooks at Aquavit.

An added bonus is that the hot chilies will help you sweat out any illness!

Chicken Soup Recipe 10-12 servings

Ingredients: 1/2 cup olive oil 2 red onions, sliced 4 garlic cloves, chopped 2 Serrano chilies, chopped with seeds and ribs removed 1 teaspoon cumin powder 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 3-pound roasting chicken, well rinsed 1 cup white wine 1 cinnamon stick 1 teaspoon chopped thyme 1/2 cup long grain rice 1 bay leaf 3 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1cup canola oil 4 corn tortillas, cut in half than cut into 1/4-inch strips crosswise 1 teaspoon chili powder 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and 1/2-inch cubes 6 tomatoes, seeded and cubed Juice of 1 lime 1/4 cup chopped cilantro Freshly ground pepper 2 tablespoons grated jack cheese

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chilies, cumin and coriander and saute until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken, white wine, cinnamon stick, thyme and 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming foam, until chicken is cooked through.

2. While the chicken is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the rice, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir to coat with the oil, then add 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil and the canola oil to 350°F in a deep pot. Add the tortilla strips and stir to keep them from sticking. Fry until crispy, about 1 1/2 minutes total. Remove from heat with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Dust the tortilla with the chili powder.

4. Remove the chicken from the broth and when cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin. Toss with the avocado cubes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

5. Bring the broth to a boil and add the tomato, lime juice and cilantro. Season with remaining salt and pepper.

6. To serve, place chicken and avocado in a bowl and pour in the broth and top with jack cheese.