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Simmer udon, squash in chicken noodle soup

Sniffles and sore throats in my household suggest soup. Our go-to, of course, is chicken soup.

I’ve realized in the past few years of cooking for young kids that simmering a few leftover chicken parts, even a single thigh or drumstick, in a pint of water (sometimes with a bit of bouillon) yields soup in about 30 minutes. And I can put just about anything — diced carrot, zucchini, celery, leeks, even frozen peas — in the pot, and my kids will eat it, so long as little soup noodles are the main attraction.

There’s good reason to believe my kids also would eat winter squash in chicken soup, particularly since I spied this recipe for Japanese chicken soup from the Los Angeles Times. Recently purchasing a kabocha squash on a whim, I wondered how I’d use it. This dish gives me reason to buy it again, this time with udon noodles. I often have almost all the other ingredients on hand.

Turnip could be substituted for daikon radish and another brassica for the bok choy, which I do habitually buy. I’d be inclined to add shiitake or oyster mushrooms to the broth. And cooked rice is an acceptable substitute for the udon noodles, according to recipe testers. Fresh lemon and ginger give the immune system an extra boost.

Kabocha Squash and Chicken Hot Pot (Tori Nabe)

1 pound chicken drumsticks (about 4)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup dark or regular soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 small kabocha squash (8 ounces)

8 regular bok choy

1 (3-inch) piece daikon radish

1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger

12 ounces udon noodles

Shichimi togarashi, for serving

Put the chicken in a large nabe, Dutch oven or saucepan and cover with 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.

Meanwhile, make ponzu sauce: Combine the soy sauce and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, then cool to room temperature and reserve.

Prepare vegetables: Seed the squash and cut into 2-inch-wide wedges. Cut each wedge into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Trim the bok choy and cut larger leaves in half. Peel the daikon and ginger and grate on a Microplane zester or Japanese ginger grater into separate bowls.

Transfer chicken to a plate; keep the broth simmering. Add sliced squash to broth and simmer until tender, for 8 to 10 minutes. While squash cooks, prepare the udon according to package directions. Discard chicken skin and bones. Pull meat into large pieces and divide among 4 serving bowls along with udon.

Stir the bok choy into simmering soup and cook until just wilted and bright green, for about 1 minute. Divide vegetables and broth among bowls with chicken and sprinkle with the togarashi. Serve with daikon, ginger and ponzu sauce, seasoning each bowl or spoonful to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Tribune News Service photo