Thursday, February 23, 2012

Totally Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I'm not posting step-by-step photos on chicken soup.  It's a classic, and I think mine probably looks like the same one you'd find in that old cookbook you inherited or picked up at the thrift store, with a couple of tweaks.  It's chicken soup.  I don't need to tell you it's good. 

Chicken soup is actually not among my top 12 favorite soups, but it's one that comes in handy sometimes.

Here's what I did (it's a two-day process). 

Day one:

I simmered a chicken breast (from the farm, so bone-in, skin on) in vegetable stock.  Everyone on the internet tells you to use the creepiest chicken you can - head, feet, and of course, dark meat.  Meh.  I really don't like dark meat, I'm not about to deal with heads and feet, and really, just removing the meat from the breast (later) was quite enough of the touching of the bird for me.  Don't worry, it's still flavorful, but lower in fat and ick. If you're into those other chicken parts, you'll probably get more flavor and richer texture, but I think my veg and seasonings make up for any absent flavor. 

So the chicken breast goes into a pot with several carrots and half a head of celery, chopped, as well as a large red onion, chopped.  This sort-of goes against my ideas for stock-making, since these weren't leftover veg in my house, but totally useable veg and I "wasted" them making the soup, as in, we did not eat them.  If I had a full stock bag in the freezer, I would have used scraps like I was making veg stock (but with chicken). Cover the chicken and vegetables with veg (or chicken) stock. See, it's like adding veg and chicken flavors to existing stock, this is water that has been turned into stock twice. 

Simmer for several hours with a handful of peppercorns (like a tablespoon) and a teaspoon of curry powder (really) and some paprika and two bay leaves and whatever else you want to throw in.  I used the rest of the frozen thyme and rosemary I had from the CSA, because it was getting quite old. 

Remove the chicken and set aside to cool.

Strain the soup, several times, and toss the spent veggies you had in there (or find another use). 

Pick apart the chicken - shred by hand.

Throw the chicken and the broth (separately) into the fridge overnight. 

Day two:

Strain the fat off the broth.  Put it in a large pot and set to simmer.  Cut up fresh veg.  Onion, garlic, carrots, celery, spinach.  Toss them in.  Add some fresh (in my case, frozen from the summer) dill.  Simmer.  Taste and adjust spices.  Need some salt?  Garlic?  Pepper? This is the time.   

Make noodles.  I used a basic egg noodle recipe off the interwebs.  I'm not going to tell you that I've practiced and created a new egg noodle recipe - sometimes there's just no reason to re-invent the wheel.  They're just egg noodles. 

If you're like me, and you're freezing most of this soup, freeze most of your noodles, but separately.  Noodles do not want to sit in that soup and deteriorate.  I took servings of uncooked noodles and froze them in stray plastic containers (feta, Earth Balance, hummus, etc) and then once they were frozen in nests, I removed them and stashed them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. 

Reserve enough noodles for tonight's dinner.  Boil these briefly, separately.  If you're serving all the soup today, just slowly drop the noodles into the soup pot for the last few minutes, but don't store noodles in soup. 

A few notes on egg noodles:

Make them small.  Some fool (me) didn't cut mine and they're like fettuccine, which is fairly difficult to navigate by spoon. 

Dry them, all separated.  After you make, roll out and cut your dough, you need to dry your noodles.  This is not a long process, it's fine.  But don't leave your noodles in a clump thinking they'll dry just fine like that.  They won't and some will merge with each other and you'll end up with half chicken noodle soup and half chicken and dumplings. See below. 

I like it served with broiled cheese, which is the simplest food that I don't think you've heard of.  It's cheese, melted on bread, and it's what I grew up on in lieu of the standard grilled cheese sandwich.  And I thought everyone else did too.  But when Sous Chef Brian and I were first married, I offered it up and he was all, "What's that?" and I just attributed that to him being an odd boy and went about my business.  But if you Google it, it's really not there.  There's one hit that sort of looks like it, and the rest are about cheese on soup.   Take bread.  Cover with cheese.  Set to broil.  Retrieve when melted, or wait until cheese bubbles up and burns.  If cheese has bubbled, remove top layer to find gooey underlayer.  This might only work with thick slices of orange "American" cheese.  I haven't tried that one as an adult. 

Tonight we just melted Gouda on toast. 

In the freezer, I have the other individual servings of soup and a bag of nests of noodles, so to pack lunch, I just need to grab a soup, a nest (in a baggie or a faux baggie), a bowl, and a spoon.  I put the soup and noodle nest in the bowl and microwave at work and the noodles act just like fresh noodles. 

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