Chinese cuisine is famous for foods that also have a medicinal purpose. American cuisine…not so much. However, we do have chicken noodle soup and it is still one of my favorite comfort foods when recovering from a cold. This past week, my daughter was sick and I had the opportunity to make this delicious dish once again. It is easy to make and vastly better than the store bought variety. I like to use organic vegetables and free-range chicken. Free-range or organic chickens taste better, are better for you and have less fat.
Great Ingredients Make a Great Soup
- 1 (3 ½ pound) whole free-range or organic chicken
- 3 quart(s) low-sodium organic chicken broth
- 6 carrots, peeled
- 3 stalks celery, ends trimmed and the leafy heart
- 3 medium onions, peeled
- 5 black peppercorns
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 10 sprigs parsley
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
- 3 cups (5 ounces) medium egg noodles
Place the chicken and chicken broth in a large stockpot and set it over medium heat. Roughly chop 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, and 1 onion and add to the broth, as noted above I use organic vegetables when possible.
I put aside most of the parsley and 1 clove of garlic for the finished soup. I am fortunate to have a robust Italian parsley growing in my garden. The thyme is also fresh from the garden. Both of these herbs are easily grown all year round in the Northwest.
Add the peppercorns, 3 cloves garlic, 2 sprigs of parsley, thyme, and enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the chicken is very tender — about 1 ¼ hours. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Strain the broth through a fine sieve into a large, clean bowl or stockpot. Discard the vegetables. The free-range chicken that I used in this recipe does not have as much fat as a regular chicken. Often, there will ¼ to ½ inch of fat floating on the broth, but with a free-range chicken there is very little. I will skim off 2-3 tablespoons of fat to sauté the onions. After the chicken has cooled enough to handle, de-bone, and chop all the meat in ½ inch chunks.
Cooking the Soup
Now everything is read for the final stage, which takes about 1 ¼ hours. First, chop all the vegetables into pieces ½ inch thick. Chop the parsley and garlic finely. Sauté the garlic and onions with the chicken fat and the butter or olive oil.
Note: Olive oil is the healthiest choice. If you are using a free-range chicken, the fat will give a richer flavor and is also much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids than a standard chicken. I would not recommend using the fat from a standard chicken.
When the onions are translucent, add the broth, carrots and celery. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to low and let simmer for 50 minutes. At this point, I will add more water to accomodate the noodles soaking up the fluids. You could also boil the noodles separately, but I like the flavor that cooking in the broth adds to them. Before you add the noodles and chicken, taste the broth and add salt or pepper as desired. Bring to a boil and add the chicken and noodles, let it cook at a boil for 10 minutes. Immediately, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining parsley.
The final product is hearty soup, with a clear and savory broth that is sweetly perfumed with pepper, parsley and chicken flavor. The vegetables are firm and bright in color. The noodles are tender, yet firm, and full of chicken flavor. That is the picture at the top of this post, compare that with the murky, mushy soup that I bought from the store [right]. There is no comparison. Just a final note, this soup freezes well. Bon Appétit!