Monday, March 16, 2009

The Broth Will Cure You

Our small household has been waylaid by a cold for the past week. There's been lots of sniffling, glasses of juice and cups of tea and endless episodes of House. M. got it first. As he was leaving for work last Monday, looking very wilted and ill, he requested chicken soup.
"No problem." I said.

But there was a problem. I've never actually made chicken soup. I'd been confronted with this lack of culinary training before. Early in our relationship M. got sick. I went to work moaning about how I didn't know how to make chicken soup and my boss told me she'd talk me through her recipe some day. But then M. got better, no chicken soup needed. I was off the hook.

Now things were a little more complicated. We live in the same city and state, so if he requests chicken soup I need to come up with some. The canned variety would never do, and I am just honest enough that I could never go to Bryan's (a gourmet grocery that makes very authentic looking chicken noodle soup) and purchase soup to pass off as my own.

I spent Monday morning looking through cookbooks for the perfect chicken soup recipe: simple and good. I nixed Ina Garten's recipe that called for stock that was begun 48 hours in advance using three full chickens. I stayed away from anything too exotic with additives like chipotle or curry or the like. It might be curative but I wanted something simple and good. We could always doctor it up later.

I settled on what I thought was the perfect beginners chicken soup recipe. I went to the store and bought organic chicken, carrots, celery and onions. I made the soup and it was so good. I was so impressed with myself and my ability to whip up a pot full of curative chicken soup with no prior experience.

The soup continued to get better and better every day and it was very adaptable. We added spinach one night, lime juice and fried tortilla strips the next. Even better? The soup worked its magic and now we are feeling WELL.

Amish Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from the Hay Day Country Market Cookbook
4 pounds chicken pieces
3 quarts water
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 large pinch saffron threads
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups egg noodles
Additional salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse chicken pieces and trip off excess fat. Place chicken in a large soup pot and cover with water. Stir in salt, saffron, onion and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Adjust the heat and continue to simmer (do not allow broth to boil) skimming off any foam that rises to the surface, until the broth becomes rich and golden and chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Using a large slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside until cool enough to handle.
2. Add carrots and celery to the broth and bring to a simmer, uncovered, cooking for 15 minutes. Meanwhile pull the chicken meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Shred or cut the meat into large bite sized pieces and add them back to the soup.
3. Add noddles, simmer until al dente, season, and serve. You can also keep the unfinished chicken soup in the fridge, return to the stove top to heat, add noodles and cook until al dente, and season and serve the next day.


maria Stuart said...

oh! you should have called me! Though it sounds like you did just fine. Saffron is also a tempting addition. I'll try that next time

Shelley (Pink House) said...

Glad you tried making chicken soup. It's one of my go-to things to make over the years when it's rainy or snowy outside. My family loves it too. You can add enough to make it dinner for a manly crew as well - homemade bread, some cheese, and fruit. I think it does as much for me making it as it does for those who eat it though. Very soothing and therapeutic.