Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

This is the first real day of Fall as far as I’m concerned.  It’s the first day I’ve needed my fleece pants.  That makes it Fall.  And it’s my first chicken noodle soup of the season.  Homemade chicken noodle soup is one of the best foods on the planet.  Make no mistake about it, it also takes a lot of time to put together.  There are a lot of shortcuts you can take – some good, some not so much.  I went the long way around today.  It makes a difference and it’s a nice way to spend a cold and rainy morning.

The first step in making chicken noodle soup is making the broth. And the most important thing to remember is that it’s different than making stock in that you’re planning to use the chicken.  When you make stock you simmer it for hours to get the most concentrated flavor.  By then the chicken is completely devoid of taste and chalky dry in spite of being in water for hours.  When you make soup you’re mostly poaching the chicken just until it’s done so keep an eye on it.  Other than that it’s the same.  You add carrots, celery, onion, parsely, salt and pepper to a big pot of water with a whole chicken.  When it’s done you use a colander to separate the solids from the broth.  Set the chicken aside and throw the rest away.  Stock done.

The original recipe instructs you to simmer all the vegetables in the broth.  I like to saute the celery and onions in a heavy skillet first.  I helps them stay a little crunchy in the soup.  The carrots you’ll want to simmer.  The recipe also calls for orzo.  I like the slurpy part of eating chicken noodle soup so I used whole wheat egg noodles instead. They also add a little nuttiness to the soup.

You might be inclined to cook the pasta, whichever kind you use, in the broth.  Don’t.  Yes, it would add a nice flavor to the noodles, but it would also make the soup cloudy with starch.  Here’s what you do instead.  Once you’ve pulled the chicken off of the bones put the bones and skin in a pasta pot with some water and let it boil for 20 minutes or so.  Drain the water through a colander to get the skin and bones out and return the water to the pot.  Cook the pasta in that.  You’ll get some extra flavor in your noodles without messing up your soup.

At this point your kitchen is filled with dirty dishes:  2 pots, 2 bowls, a skillet and a colander – all large.  My only advice is to wash dishes as you go.  My kitchen is kind of small so that’s the only way I can make it work.  Of course your kitchen is also filled with the most wonderful smell of chicken soup.  So worth the extra dish duty.

Let’s talk for a second about the shortcuts.  I used a whole, free range, hormone-free chicken from Empress Farm.  Feel free to use the skin and bones of a rotisserie chicken instead to make the stock.  And of course set the chicken aside to use too.  If you do that taste it before you add any salt.  Rotisserie chickens tend to be a little salty.  You’ll find that the broth is a little dark because the chicken has been browned.  You can also get pre-chopped carrots, celery and onions.  I recommend a grocery store salad bar for that.  It will cost you extra, but save you time.  All I ask is that you don’t use canned stock for soup.  It’s fine for cooking if that’s what you have.  In soup, though, the broth is the whole deal.  Take the time to make your own.  Of course if you have a bunch in the freezer absolutely use that as a time saver.

The thing that makes this soup something special is the lemon.  Lemon zest and fresh lemon juice.  It adds something sunny to the warm comfort of chicken noodle soup.  Holding the parsley and lemon juice to the end makes the soup extra bright and cheerful.  The perfect remedy for the season’s first cold and rainy day.  Now bring on the football!

Good? Warm and yummy.
Easy? Not at all.
Good for company? Of course. Soup always feeds a crowd.
Special shopping? Nope.

Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

1 (4-pound) whole chicken
2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and diced
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
10 cups water
2 t olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/3 cups chopped carrot
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons salt
6 ounces uncooked whole wheat egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
zest and juice of 2 lemons
Coarsely cracked black pepper

Directions

Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Place chicken in a large Dutch oven. Add 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery stalks, and next 5 ingredients (through bay leaves) to pan. Add 6 cups water; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes.

Remove chicken from pan; place chicken in a bowl. Chill 15 minutes. Remove chicken from bones.  Place chicken skin and bones in a pot with 4-5 cups of water.  Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces; cover and set aside. Strain broth mixture through a sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.

Heat 2 t olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Add diced celery, onions and garlic.  Saute until the onions begin to brown.

Add enough water to broth to equal 9 cups; place broth mixture in a large Dutch oven. Add 1 1/3 cups carrot and salt to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add reserved chicken, celery, onions and garlic and simmer 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Keep warm.

Bring reserved chicken skin, bones and water to a boil.  Strain through a colander, reserving liquid.  Return the liquid to the pot and return to a boil.  Cook pasta to al dente.  Add pasta to pan with chicken and broth mixture; stir in parsley, rind, and juice. Garnish each serving with lemon wedges and cracked black pepper, if desired.

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