Thursday, October 9, 2008

Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup

Besides keeping you cozy and warm, it's no secret that soup makes you feel better when you're a little under the weather. And of all the soups in the world, whats the one soup that everyone says you should have? Chicken Soup!
A few years ago, when Paul was home in bed, I told him to have some soup to make him feel better. When he said he didn't have any, I immediately launched into "caregiver mode", went to the store, picked up a few ingredients, and went to his apartment to make him a pot of homemade chicken soup. Of course, it was just the thing to make him feel better. It really works! Make a big pot of it, freeze it in small containers, and you'll be ready the next time you're feeling less than 100%!

1 whole chicken
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
4 or 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
fresh or dried thyme leaves
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
wide egg noodles

Place chicken in a large pot. Add enough water to fill the rest of the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the meat falls off the bone, at least a good 2 hours. During this time, use a big spoon to skim away any yuckiness that rises to the top. After the meat is completely falling apart, carefully remove it from the pot and place it in a large bowl. Set aside. Add onion, celery, carrots, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes longer. When the chicken is cool enough to handle with your impeccably clean hands, pull the meat off the bones and add to the pot. Add cooked egg noodles. Serve.

OK, I have a lot to talk about so here we go.
-I like to add LOTS of veggies to my chicken soup, usually 1-2 pounds of carrots, almost the whole stalk of celery, and a large onion. Add as much as you like!
-Thyme is key to the recipe. It's what makes chicken soup taste like chicken soup. I usually use several sprigs of fresh thyme leaves bundled together with cotton twine, but you can use a tsp of dried leaves, ground thyme or poultry seasoning.
-The soup requires more salt than you think it will. Adding just a pinch of salt across the top just isn't gonna cut it. You'll probably need more like several tsp of salt, depending on how big your pot is, how big the chicken is, and how much water was needed to fill up the pot. If you don't want to add so much sodium to your diet, use a salt substitute. Just make sure you use enough seasoning, otherwise your soup will be bland. When all is said and done and you're just about to add the noodles and serve, have a quick taste and adjust the seasoning if you need to. OH and don't burn your tongue!
-This is another one of those soups that can't be rushed and requires the whole chicken, bones and all. If you try to make it with boneless chicken, it'll be missing the depth of flavor that you want. That only comes from slowly simmering the meat and bones for hours.
-If a whole chicken is too much meat for you, you can just put some of it back into the soup and use the rest to make Chicken Salad, White Chicken Chili, East Indian Chicken or Chicken Stew.
-Another option would be to use chicken parts, such as legs, thighs, and wings. If you use no other part of the chicken, use the wings. They make the best chicken broth, more so than any other part of the chicken.
-I like to boil the noodles ahead of time, then just add them at the last minute, just before serving. Or you can place a serving of cooked noodles into each bowl, then ladle the soup over the noodles. This serves two purposes. If you just add the uncooked noodles to the pot, they'll absorb a lot of liquid, you'll wind up with much less broth, and your pot of soup won't go as far. Also, the longer the noodles stay in the soup, the mushier they'll become. I prefer to have noodles that are little more firm. So, add the cooked noodles right before you serve them and they'll be perfect. The same is true if you'd like to add rice instead of noodles. Use leftover cooked rice, or cook it first before you add it to the soup.
-And finally, I must point out something that may seem obvious, but I never assume anything. When you buy a whole chicken from the grocery store, make sure that you remove the insides after you remove the plastic packaging from the chicken. And when I say "insides" I mean the little bundle of other chicken parts that has been wrapped separately and placed inside the chicken. I've heard of people using the neck to make stock or cooking chicken livers etc, but I usually just discard the entire bundle. Whew! That was a lot. I think that covers everything. Enjoy!

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