Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup and Winding Roads

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I wasn't raised in the US. I was raised in a teeny tiny quaint little village in England with a winding main road lined with chestnut trees, a church on a hill that was 800 years old, and an unnecessary number of Pubs. I was not raised on barbecue, grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos. I was also not raised on Chicken Noodle Soup, and that is my loss.

I'm not much of a soup girl. Sure, I'll dabble and make the occasional pot of it, but I don't seek it out. I prefer sandwiches, poached eggs, quinoa. But, Chicken Noodle Soup is really really yummy. It's hearty and delicious and instant comfort food. When I was younger, if I got sick it was Boiled Egg and Soldiers and 24 Hours of Sympathy. It seems so different in the US. It's amazing the cultural differences between two countries that speak (roughly) the same language. Some are so vast and some are just teeny tiny. I feel, though, that Chicken Noodle Soup would have been a great addition to my childhood, eaten in front of a log fire with a blanket around me after a bracing walk on one of those winding country roads.

The other reason that I am really happy about Chicken Noodle Soup is that it's the kind of food that uses up stuff that would otherwise be thrown away. Or, at least, it is the way I make it. I love Roast Chicken and I've taken to roasting one every week or two. The last time I did, I decided to make Chicken Noodle Soup the next day, so I deliberately only pulled 3/4 of the meat off the bones. Then, the next day it was soup time. Try this soup. It's yummy and comforting. Play with the ratios until it tastes like a warm hug to you.

Chicken Noodle Soup

I use Soba noodles for my soup, which are buckwheat noodles. You could use other noodles if you desire, but I really like these for texture and size.

1 Roast Chicken Carcass with 1/4 Meat Left on
Boiling Water
1 Large Onion, diced
1 Vegetable or Chicken Bouillon Cube
3 Carrots
1 Cup Frozen Peas
2oz Soba Noodles (uncooked), broken in hal
2 Bay Leafs
Salt and Pepper

In a large soup or stock pot with a lid, big enough to hold the chicken carcass, sauté the onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until it becomes soft and starts to brown around the edges, about 10-15 minutes on a medium heat. Place the chicken carcass on top of the onion and cover with boiling water. You want the carcass to be covered by half an inch of water at the most. Next, add in the Bouillon cube and the bay leaves and some generous grinds of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for about an hour.

When the hour is up, check the chicken and, with a butter knife, see if the meat just literally falls off the bones. If it doesn't, give it fifteen more minutes and then check again. Once the meat is falling off the bones, peel and dice the carrots and add them in. Taste the soup and check the seasoning, adjust as necessary. Cook for 20 more minutes then fish out the chicken carcass and the bay leaves. Make sure you've cleaned all the meat off the carcass so the soup is nice and chickeny.

Throw in the soba noodles, they should be fully cooked after around ten minutes. Check the taste again. If you find it's too thick or too much liquid has been absorbed by the noodles, add another cup or two of water and, if you like, another Bouillon cube to punch up the flavor. Next, add the frozen peas, let sit for two or three minutes, then serve, preferably in mismatched bowls with blankets on your lap.

Makes 8-10 bowls of soup.

If you are storing this or freezing it (which I highly recommend), let it cool first in the pan and then put it in the fridge until chilled, then you'll be able to skin off some of the fat which will have risen to the top before you freeze it.

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