It’s that time of year. The days are short, the nights are long and regardless of the hour, it’s cold. Being outside for any length of time chills one to the bone. It seems we go for days on end without seeing the sun – just one gray cloudy day after the next. I understand why some people get a case of the “winter blues” every year. And then let’s not forget that every other person seems to be walking around with a cold. Sometimes I think bears have the right answer – hibernate the winter away and wake up when it’s spring!
But life goes on – cold weather or not – and one remedy that I have found that gets my body and spirits warmed up is cooking up a big pot of homemade soup. Making soups are a lot of fun because who is to say what should go into a batch of vegetable soup?? It’s all your call, and as a cook you can be as creative as you want. It’s a good way to use up those odds and ends that might be in fridge’s vegetable drawer or tucked away in the freezer. Sure, you can open a can and in a few minutes be eating some kind of soup, but once you’ve made your own from scratch you will save the canned soups for making casseroles!
In the genre of soups, there are a few superstars. In a list of top five soups, I have to believe that chicken noodle soup is somewhere on that list. Long believed to have special healing power for those who are suffering from colds or a flu bug, it just feels good to sit down to a hot bowl of hearty chicken noodle soup. So, on this cold January afternoon, it seemed like the right soup to make.
There are a couple of basic realities about making soup. It is very hard to make good soup quickly and it is even harder to make a small amount of soup. When you decide that you want to make some soup, make sure you have a couple of hours and a nice big pot. If you are going through the effort, you might as well make it count! Many soups are just as good if not better the next day and some freeze very well, so don’t be worried about having too much.
I hope everyone stays warm and well this winter – and if you want to take out a little insurance, go ahead and make some soup!
Chicken Noodle Soup
5-6 chicken bone-in thighs (skin removed) You could also use breasts or drumsticks, if you prefer
4 quarts of water
2 carrots cut in half
2 stalks of celery cut in half
1 medium onion cut in half
1 TBSP salt
6-8 whole peppercorns
8 oz egg noodles (use whatever style you like – could also use orzo or other pasta)
3 TBSP chicken soup base
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
Ground pepper to taste
Place chicken thighs (I remove the skin) in a large pot. Pour water (it should be cool) over chicken. Add carrots (no need to peel), celery, onion, salt and peppercorns. Cover pot and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. After about 15 minutes, skim top of liquid and remove any foamy residue that has come to the surface or adhered to the side of the pot (this is from the bones and fat). Continue to simmer covered pot for another 45 minutes.
In the meantime, cook your egg noodles. Follow the instructions on the package, but cook the noodles a couple of minutes short of the recommended time. These will continue to cook when they go into the hot soup, and you don’t want them mushy. When the cooking time for the noodles is reached, drain noodles through a colander and then rinse with cold water. Set noodles aside.
Remove pot from heat and using a large slotted spoon remove solid contents – chicken, vegetables and peppercorns. Let chicken cool for a few minutes and using two forks, remove all the meat from the bone and set aside. Take the onion, which will be very, very soft, and cut it into small pieces. Discard the carrots and celery. Remove any additional residue that may have collected along the side of the pot with a paper towel. Add chicken soup base to the pot and stir to dissolve (depending on the kind of base you are using, you may want more – give it a taste). Add back to the pot the chicken meat, chopped cooked onion, fresh parsley, diced carrots and celery and pepper.
Return pot to heat and bring back to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer. Continue until the carrots and celery are tender (about 20 minutes or so). Turn off heat and gently add in your cooked noodles and stir in soup to combine. Ladle into a big bowl and enjoy with some crusty bread or on its own – it will warm every part of you! Enjoy!