I know I wrote about chicken noodle soup before, but it recently came up again when Emily came down with something awful (thankfully not H1N1). Few things elicit a response that soup brings from people, especially when ill. It still remains one of my fondest food-related memories, and I am more than happy to make a pot of soup in hopes that it will lift one's spirit.
As far as the soup goes, the application is simple enough. Cook chicken while making stock, shred chicken, drain stock, add vegetables and other wanted ingredients, and consume. There is much debate as to the actual stock making process, and I approach this one of two ways. The first is a more time consuming process, actually separating the breast meat, thighs, and drumsticks from the rest of the chicken. Use the remaining bones to make the stock. This allows you to have perfectly poached meat by adding the rest at a later time. Good fun, but it does take a lot longer. The second, more time-friendly approach is to just plop the whole chicken in and slowly extract flavor from the bones, making a stock and cooking the chicken all at once. Since I usually do not get a heads up on when someone is going to be sick, I prefer this way.
Variations are, of course, pretty much open to interpretation. I enjoy the classic application of a mirepoix along with some mixed veggies. But feel free to add whatever you like to this tasty concoction. In the end, it's all about hearty comfort.
Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, chopped into 4 pieces
1 celery stalk, chopped into 4 pieces
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 T olive oil
1 chicken bullion cube
3 carrots, large dice
2 celery stalks, large dice
1 large onion, large dice
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 16oz bag frozen mixed vegetables
3 tablespoons butter
1 16oz bag egg noodles
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 t dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large pot with oil over medium high heat and add chicken, letting brown for about four minutes on each side. Add the single carrot, celery, garlic, and onion, as well as any trimmings from the other vegetables. Add water to cover by two inches. Place the bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme sprigs in either a tea ball or a piece of cheesecloth wrapped in string. Add to the pot along with the bullion cube. Bring the water to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low so it just continues to bubble. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 1 and a half hours. If the water level drops below the chicken, add a bit more to cover (it helps if the water is warm).
Remove chicken from stock and transfer to a plate. Let cool for about 20 minutes before shredding chicken into bite sized chunks. Drain the stock into a large bowl and wipe pot clean.
Return pot to medium heat and add butter. Add carrot, celery, and onion, sauté for about 3 minutes until the onions just start to wilt. Add garlic, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken to heat it through, and then add stock. You do not need to add all of the stock if you prefer a more chunky soup, just save the rest for a later application. Let the soup come to a boil and reduce heat to low so it just barely simmers. Cook for about 30 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Meanwhile, bring another large pot of water to a boil, salt it, and add your egg noodles. Boil them until still pretty al-dente (this helps prevent them from turning to mush later). Drain the noodles and rinse to stop the cooking. Add frozen veggies to the soup, return to a simmer, then add the noodles and thyme. Let cook for about 15 more minutes and then season with salt, pepper, and more thyme if you desire. This recipe makes a lot, but chicken noodle soup freezes quite well and keeps for about 3 months.