Saturday, December 24, 2011
Chicken Noodle Soup - The Ultimate Comfort Food
How to be a Soup Fairy
It might seem odd to post a recipe for chicken noodle soup at the holidays. But here's my reasoning - you're probably going to have some time off over the next few weeks, right? Why would you want to spend some of it making soup? Because it's a really good bet that a friend or family member is going to come down with a bad cold or flu in the next month or two. Just think how happy they'd be if you were able to whip out a container of homemade chicken soup as a get-well present. You'd get big-time gold stars for thoughtfulness (not to mention think-aheadfulness). I was planning to make this soup for blog purposes a week ago when I saw a Facebook post by my friend Kathy that said she had a lousy cold and felt like "caca". It would have been even better if I could have brought her soup immediately but I was able to stop over the following day (after I actually MADE said soup) and she was very grateful.
Making homemade soup does take some time, but you can spread it out over two days (recommended) and it doesn't take more than an hour or two each day. Plus, if you have various family members hanging around the house you can enlist their aid and it makes a fun project to do together. Really! Your house smells wonderful and you feel like you're doing something to help someone else - very appropriate at the holidays.
The big secret to this recipe is the noodles. Don't buy dried noodles, buy frozen egg noodles because they're just like homemade. They make a homemade soup seem even more homemade. Kathy later asked me "did you even make the NOODLES?" I had to confess.
Day one you cook the chicken, which creates the broth. You let the broth cool in the refrigerator overnight so you can skim off the fat the next day. Day two is all about chopping ingredients and dumping everything into the broth to cook.
By the way, this recipe makes a LOT of soup - about four quarts. The good news is that you'll have plenty for yourself as well as others. But be aware that if you try to make it in a standard Dutch oven you might run into problems. You need a real soup pot.
Do you like my pot? I love nice shiny pots. If you don't have one, borrow one from a friend or make half a recipe in a Dutch oven. Or buy one and use it often.
This recipe includes an optional small amount of cream and parmesan. They really add to the flavor but you can leave them out if you're being careful about calories. My rationale is that the cream makes the soup more slidey for sore throats (technical term).
If you're watching your sodium intake, know that you can buy chicken base in a low sodium version. I'm not sure if the same is true about chicken bouillon cubes. As a general rule of thumb I always try to use low sodium products whenever available and then salt to taste at the table. You'll end up using less sodium that way. Not familiar with chicken base? Here's what it looks like.
You'll find it, along with beef base and sometimes turkey or pork base, in the spice aisle of most grocers (near the bouillon cubes). I like these products better than bouillon cubes because they seem fresher with more depth of flavor and have less sodium.
I think I had Campbells Chicken Noodle Soup pretty much every single school day when I was in 3rd grade - brought to school in a Barbie lunch pail with a peanut butter sandwich. It took me a while to recover enough to think about chicken noodle soup again (kind of like when I came down with the flu immediately after having a shrimp dinner, but different). This recipe will be a revelation for those of you whose soup normally comes out of a can.
Happy Holidays to all!!!!!!
* * click here for a printable recipe version * *
Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes approximately 4 quarts
4 bay leaves
3 chicken bouillon cubes or 3-4 tsp chicken base (preferably low sodium)
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
One 2.5-3 lb fryer chicken, cut up
1.5 tsp Italian seasoning
3.5 quarts water
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups sliced celery with leafy green tops
12 oz package homestyle frozen egg noodles
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/3 cup cooking sherry
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup heavy cream (optional but good)
¾ cup grated parmesan (optional but good)
Additional fresh parsley for garnish
For step one, add all the ingredients to a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer approximately 35 to 45 minutes until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Remove and discard the bay leaves and onion. You should have approximately 3 quarts of stock. When the chicken is cool, discard the skin and bones and shred or chop the meat into bite-sized pieces. Refrigerate the stock and the chicken separately overnight.
For step two, skim the fat from the surface of the stock and bring back to a boil. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 to ten minutes. Add the egg noodles and cook according to package directions. When the noodles are done, add the chicken, mushrooms, parsley, sherry and rosemary. Add the cream and parmesan, if using. Cook for another 2 minutes until heated through. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.