Tis the season! Tis the cold and flu season that is, and while flu shots are available at doctor offices and pharmacies, not so for colds. What to do to battle a cold; why chicken soup of course! Chicken soup is comfort food and a folklore cure for whatever ails you. In 2007, the University of Nebraska analyzed research studies to find that chicken soup's medicinal properties were "inconclusive". You ask anyone who doesn't feel well, depressed, tired or just all around blah; they'll tell you to take all the research and shove it where the sun don't shine.
Here in Monticello, Utah the weather has finally taken a turn towards the cold; several times it has gotten very windy, darkly clouded over and snow was anticipated. Then my son calls me up one day and says, "Mom, I don't feel well, you have anything I could eat?" Regretfully I had no chicken soup made, but he said that my Paella made him feel so much better; he did a three hour workout at the local gym. Well of course it would, it had chicken in it! Anyway, I took no further chances, decided to make soup and took out a container of chicken stock from the freezer.
Homemade Chicken Stock is an essential main ingredient for this soup; you want all the richness of flavor from the chicken, vegetables and seasonings, cooked together to create perfection. When I say "chicken carcass" in the recipe, basically you want to buy a whole chicken, remove the legs, thighs and breasts; what is left is what goes into the soup pot and remove as much skin as you can too.
Why make your own stock? You know exactly what is in the stock, it’s clear, not cloudy because of preservatives added in. When making your stock, besides the bird carcass, you'll be adding in the "holy trinity" of cooking: carrots, celery and onion. With the onion, leave the skin on to add a more golden color to the stock; it will all be strained later on, so no need to worry about onion skin floating in it. I also add salt, ground black pepper and cloves of garlic for aroma and taste; so when making soup later on, be careful adding more of these ingredients. Taste!!! You can always add, but you can't take away if you add too much before tasting.
With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up fast, remember to keep the turkey carcass (leave a little meat on) and transform it into a wonderfully roasted turkey stock. The carcass can be wrapped in plastic, placed into a freezer bag and frozen for later use, but don’t go past three months. You don’t use it, you’ll lose it!
Homemade Chicken Stock
3 to 4 lbs. of chicken carcass (legs, thighs and breasts removed)
3 large celery ribs, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large leek, washed thoroughly and chopped; include most of the green section as well
2 medium onions, unpeeled, but remove the root end
1 (8 oz.) container whole mushrooms; dirt brushed off
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 whole bay leaves
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
5 quarts cold water
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot (10-12 quart); bring to a boil on high heat and skim off any frothy residue. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 hours.
Secure cheese cloth inside a large plastic bowl and strain the stock into the bowl; discard all the solid material captured in the cheese cloth. Place the plastic bowl inside the freezer for one hour; the fat will solidify and then can be easily removed. The stock is now ready to be used, can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Makes about 4 1/2 quarts.
Now for the Chicken Noodle Soup itself; personally I use only the meat from the breasts; the legs and thighs I save for other recipes.
Chicken Noodle Soup
4 qts. of turkey, chicken or combination of both stocks
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup diced red bell pepper
5 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves; trim off fat
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp. crushed, dried thyme leaves
12 to 16 oz. homestyle egg noodles (dependent on how much noodles you like in your soup)
Add the stock, onion, carrots, celery and bell pepper to a tall stock pot; set on medium heat to begin simmering.
In a large pan, add the chicken, cover with water and set on medium-high heat. Let cook for 10 minutes, any fat will foam at the top; rinse off chicken and cut into 1 inch pieces. In a large skillet, medium-high heat, sauté the chicken pieces until no pink is showing. Sprinkle the salt, black pepper and thyme leaves during the cooking; mix well.
Add the chicken, and any juices in the skillet, to the stock pot. Turn the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil. Add the egg noodles; they will be ready once they plump up and double in length; about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat and serve in bowls.
Makes 12 servings.