It’s cold and raining and my allergies are finally driving me to confront needles (i.e. allergy shots). I also had the remains of a roast chicken from our dinner Friday night. So I called my mom and got her recipe for real homemade chicken noodle soup. This was a mainstay comfort food of our childhood, and every Thanksgiving after the carcass had been plucked nearly clean she would get out the stock pot and make gallons of turkey noodle soup for the freezer.
leftover boned chicken, whether it’s the remains of a bucket or a roast
3-5 stalks of celery
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
either noodles or rice. I highly recommend the polish kluski noodles, but you can use plain egg noodles, homemade pasta, gnocchi, whole-wheat pasta or a wild-rice mix.
Large stock pot with lid.
If you’re making it with noodles use 3 stalks of celery. If you’re using rice, use the 5 stalks. As mom put it, “for some reason rice always wants more celery.” Use the whole celery stalk (leaves and all) for best flavor.
Strip any pieces of meat left on the bones. You can use the remains of a takeout fried chicken bucket, but pick off and toss any breading. Discard any stuffing or herbs still in the cavity. I stuffed this chicken with fresh chives and thyme from my garden when I roasted it, so that had to be scooped out and tossed so it wouldn't affect the flavor of the stock. Otherwise skin, bones, leftover pan drippings and nameless wobbly bits go in the stock pot, meat goes in a separate bowl you stick in the fridge until the stock (broth) is made.
Chop the carrots, celery and onion into big chunks (about 1”) and toss into the stock pot with the bones etc. Peel and crush the cloves of garlic and add that as well.
Add water until everything’s covered. Heat to a simmer then cover, turn down to low and let simmer for 3-4 hours. You can also toss everything in the crock pot and let simmer all day or overnight, but you won't get as much stock unless you have a very large crock pot. I make this during the week in stages, first night I make the stock, the next night I make the soup.
Strain through a colander into a bowl. Go through the colander and pick off any additional bits of meat you missed the first time. Toss them in the stock pot, then discard everything else you strained out. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the stock pot or freeze to use later.
Turn the heat back up to medium until the stock is simmering. Add the meat you set aside earlier plus noodles or rice, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes (longer for wild-rice mixes; use package directions). Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crackers or bread.
Either the stock or the soup can be frozen in freezer-bags. It’ll last longer if you make sure there’s no air trapped in the bag. The stock can be frozen in ice cube trays, then bagged for use in flavoring rice, pasta or sauces.
The traditional chicken soup recipe leaves a lot of room to play with flavors. Try adding artichoke hearts or spinach in the last ten minutes of cooking, or maybe a little lemon juice, black pepper, wild rice and fresh asparagus. Up the garlic content and add cilantro and chili peppers for a tried-and-true cure for the common cold.
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