05. January 2014 · Comments Off on The Bit About Chicken Noodle Soup (Thank You, Mr. Warhol) · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , ,

Warhol-Campbells-Chicken-NoodleFor a bit of a stretch, we were getting chicken in various shapes and sizes through Friends and Farms, our grocery co-op. I’d finish broiling off or baking one set of split breasts or thigh quarters and more’d show up in the following week’s pickup. So, when another whole bird arrived, I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to do with it. I’d roasted three whole chickens already over the summer. And while I like roast poultry a lot, I didn’t want to do it again.

So, I ended up parting it out into quarters – leg/thigh, breast/wing – bagging it, and freezing it for later. And later lasted quite a while. During which, more chicken dutifully appeared in our insulated bag on Saturdays. Fortunately, the new fridge has a freezer drawer that really is a deep-freeze, keeping things sub-zero or thereabouts. So, it wasn’t a couple months later that I finally hauled those rock-solid quarters out in a decision to free up some bin space.

If you’ve never made real, honest-to-goodness, home-made chicken noodle soup, you will be surprised at a) how easy it is and b) how long it takes. I promise, however, the results are more than worth it. You just need a chicken, some basic vegetables, and a couple of common herbs. And time. Definitely time. In fact, this is a recipe in two parts, and you should plan on starting the process the evening before your intended meal. The following day, assembling the finished soup takes less than an hour.

However, the first thing you have to do when making real chicken noodle soup is make chicken stock. Not broth. Stock. Which means bones, tendons, and the like as well as meat, fat, and skin. Canned or boxed “stock” from the grocery store isn’t. Trust me on this. Chicken soup made with canned so-called-stock/broth from the store ends up watery and flat. You need to make your own. This is the time investment necessary for truly tasty soup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, giblets removed, cut into leg/thigh & breast/wing quarters, about 4 pounds. (a pre-packaged quartered or parted whole chicken is perfectly acceptable)
  • 2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
  • 2 large or 3 medium ribs of celery, cleaned and cut into thirds, leaves included
  • 1 large onion, quartered, or 2 small onions, halved and peeled
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 whole bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 qts cold water

Place chicken in bottom of a large soup pot (8 qt is good). Add salt, bay, peppercorns, garlic, and thyme. Add vegetables on top. Pour over water and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately lower heat, cover, and maintain a low simmer – this is when the liquid just barely bubbles at the surface; any stronger a boil will result in murky stock. Leave the lid just slightly ajar to allow steam to escape and prevent sputtering. Let cook for 3 hours, occasionally skimming off any scum or dross that floats to the top with a ladle or kitchen spoon. Turn off the heat and let stand for one half hour tightly covered – any remaining impurities will come to the top for skimming and, unless your kitchen is ice cold, the stock will stay above the spoilage danger zone.

With tongs remove the cooked chicken pieces to a baking tray to cool. Remove as many of the large vegetable pieces as possible and discard. Strain the remaining liquid into another large pot or large metal bowl. Place the pot/bowl into a sink partially filled with water and ice cubes, and stir until it’s cooled below seventy degrees F. Pour into a storage container and refrigerate overnight.

Pick through the cooled chicken and remove any bones, skin, or cartilage. Shred or roughly chop and refrigerate in an airtight container until needed.

The next day, you should skim the solidified fat from the top of your stock. You will notice that the stock is a loose jelly-like consistency. THIS IS WHY YOU MAKE YOUR OWN. That jelly effect comes from the gelatin cooked out of the bones, skin, and joints of the chicken carcass. And you don’t get it in canned broth. It provides the unctuous mouthfeel and body of a good soup. Now that you’ve done a proper job of stock making, you’re ready to proceed to the easier part – the soup itself.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 2 celery ribs, cut to a 1/4″ dice
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 6 oz (1/2 a package) dried egg noodles, wide
  • Chicken stock from previous step
  • 2 cups chopped/shredded cooked chicken from previous step
  • 1 pint cold water
  • Kosher salt

This is the easy bit. Place soup pot over medium heat and add the olive oil, swirling to coat the bottom. When the surface starts to shimmer, add onion, celery, thyme, bay leaves, and carrot along with a pinch or two of kosher salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until vegetables start to soften, but not brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add chicken stock and cold water, increase heat to high, and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to a steady simmer and season with kosher salt to taste. With tongs, remove bay leaves and thyme twigs. Add noodles, stir, and simmer for 6 minutes and noodles are almost fully cooked. Add chicken and simmer 2-3 minutes more to heat through and finish cooking noodles. Ladle into bowls and season with freshly ground black pepper as desired.

Makes about 6 regular or 4 hearty servings.

You will never look at canned soup the same way, I promise.

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