Homemade Chicken Soup
Two Fridays ago I started feeling a bit under the weather. By Saturday afternoon, I wanted nothing more than a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup. You might think that being sick would stop me from heading into the kitchen, but it rarely does. I think that my cravings might be stronger than my common sense sometimes. Besides, chicken soup doesn't require a lot of work, just a lot of time. If you're stuck in the house for the whole day like I was last Saturday, then making chicken soup is the thing to do. And because I made it when I was just noticing the first signs of a cold coming on, when I got progressively sicker last week, I had plenty of soup to comfort me.
I had seen a fairly straightforward chicken broth recipe in Things Cooks Love, a beautiful cookbook that my sister gave me for my birthday, and I decided to start with the broth and then turn it into my ideal chicken soup, which has to be chock-full of carrots, celery, and onions. It must also be served with noodles. (I've never understood the whole chicken soup with rice thing.) I could go either way on the chicken, but I tossed it in because I knew Jeff would want chicken in the soup. (And he had been sick the week before I got sick and I never made him soup, so I had to make up for that somehow.)
I took some liberties with the broth recipe. For example, the original recipe calls for a whole chicken to be cut up into pieces. I couldn't see going through that effort, so I just threw the whole chicken in.
Chicken Broth (adapted from Things Cooks Love)
Makes 2 to 2 1/2 quarts
1 4-pound chicken
1 large carrot, peeled and quartered crosswise
1 celery stalk, quartered crosswise
1 yellow onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic, smashed
6 black peppercorns
Place the chicken in a large, deep bowl with 1/2 cup of coarse salt. Cover the chicken with cold water, and refrigerate it for 1 hour.
Drain and rinse the chicken. Then transfer it to a large stockpot and add water to just barely cover it.
Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and peppercorns.
Set the pot over low heat, cover, and heat slowly just until simmering. Uncover and watch the pot. Use a fine-mesh skimmer or slotted spoon to scoop off any foam that rises to the top.
Cook on low for about 35 minutes.
Use tongs to remove the chicken and place it on a plate. Continue cooking the broth.
Let the chicken cool for about 20 minutes, or until it's cool enough to handle.
Pull the skin off the meat, reserving it on the side. Pull or cut the cooked chicken away from the bones and reserve it separately. We're both spoiled and only like white meat, so I just pulled off and saved the breast meat.
Return the bones (or carcass) and skin to the pot of broth. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 2 hours more.
Remove the pot from the heat and let the broth stand for 1 to 2 hours, until lukewarm.
Set a fine-mesh strainer (lined with cheesecloth if you prefer) or a chinois over a large bowl, and strain the broth into the bowl. Discard the solids.
Cover and refrigerate the broth for several hours or overnight (I put it in the fridge Saturday night and took it out on Sunday night.) The fat will solidify on the surface when the broth is sufficiently chilled. Use a fine-mesh skimmer to scoop off the fat.
The broth will keep for 3 days in the fridge and up to 4 months in the freezer.
Homemade Chicken Soup
(Print this recipe)
2 to 2 1/2 quarts chicken broth (from recipe above)
4 to 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 to 6 stalks of celery, sliced
2 onions, diced
salt and pepper
1/2 pound pasta of your choice (I used cut spaghetti)
reserved chicken meat (from recipe above)
Transfer the chicken broth to a large stockpot, and gently rewarm over medium-low heat.
In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Saute veggies until softened.
Add the cooked veggies to the soup, and simmer everything together while you make the pasta.
Prepare pasta according to directions on package. Drain, transfer to a bowl, and toss with a tiny bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together.
Add the reserved chicken meat to the soup (cut chicken in smaller pieces before adding if necessary).
Once the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes, the soup is ready.
Place a spoonful of noodles in the bottom of each bowl, ladle soup on top, and serve.
Store soup in airtight container in fridge for about 3 days. I recommend freezing half of it so you can have homemade soup whenever a craving strikes.
The soup was great! But we both decided it could use a little more salt. I added more after we ate it the first night, and the next night, the soup tasted incredible. I don't know whether it was the salt or the fact that all the components had a chance to mingle, but it was so much more flavorful the next night.
I rewarmed the soup in a pot on the stove when we ate it at home, and I rewarmed it in the microwave at work for lunch. Both ways worked just fine.
My only disappointment with the soup is that the chicken dried out. Does anyone have any advice on this? I've heard that using a kosher chicken helps. Should I have just left the chicken on the side and added it in each night like I did with the pasta? (Oh, and if you're wondering why I leave the pasta on the side, it's so it doesn't get overcooked and mushy.)
I can't say much about the healing properties of this soup because I was sick for a week and a half, but it definitely made me forgot about being sick while I was eating. It was that perfect, warm, comforting meal. I can't wait to dig into the reserves in the freezer next time I'm in the mood for homemade chicken soup.
Have you ever made chicken soup from scratch? What's your favorite kind of soup?