Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

Between work, my band, bowling, and other random things going on in my life, I don’t get the opportunity to cook every night. I typically try to plan the upcoming week’s dinners on Sunday’s and then shop for it. Once in a while, I realize that the upcoming week is going to be too busy to cook every night or I will only be home for an hour or 2 so I need a quick fix idea. When this arises, I try to make a large item on Sunday that I can make into many dishes throughout the week. Some things I have done in the past is smoking a pork shoulder or crock potting a pork shoulder, a big pot of chili, or sometimes soups. These big pot dishes or smoked meat’s take a great deal of time to prepare on a Sunday, so if time doesn’t allow this, I go for a good cheap stand-by. The grocery Store Rotisserie Chicken. They are usually $5-$6 and this can be turned into many quick dishes throughout the week. Since I usually just cook for myself, I can get 3-4 meals out of one chicken. This blog is to explore one way to use the chicken and the carcass itself. This really isn’t one of the quick fix meals, but I will write about some of those ideas in a future blog. I made a really good chicken noodle soup with homemade chicken stock.

First off for the Chicken Stock. You are getting down to the last serving of chicken from your purchase. You have a hidden treat, the chicken carcass. Do not throw this away! I’ve always seen on the Food Network that homemade stock is way better than the store bought stuff. After making stock for my first time a year ago, I completely agree. Having this carcass is the best time to make stock and it’s real simple. First off, when you purchase the chicken and start eating it, don’t throw any of the bones away. Keep them in a zip top bag and store it in your fridge until the chicken is all eaten. I wouldn’t keep it for longer than a week though. Once you are down to the last portion, remove all of the remaining chicken. You probably need about a cup of shredded chicken for the soup, so keep that in mind. Once you have as much of the meat removed, try to remove and fatty parts and throw it away. You can skip this step, but your stock will come out with a layer of fat on it, which you can remove once it’s cooled. Throw the bones into a stock pot. Next is time to add some flavor. I usually use the standard mirepoix, which is the basic of French cooking. A mirepoix is simply carrots, onions, and celery. I rough chop them into roughly 1” pieces. Add that to the pot. I then throw in Fresh Thyme, Fresh Rosemary (or any other fresh herb you have around) then add a few bay leafs, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Fill the pot with cold water up to just covering everything in the pot. It may seem like a lot, but you will lose more than half of the water during the cooking process. Put it on the stove on high heat and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce it to medium heat and walk away. I check on it every 30 minutes or so and season as needed with salt and pepper. I continue this for roughly 3 hours or until the liquid has reduced in half and the stock has tons of flavor. Depending on the size and quantity of bone you have, will depend on actual cooking time.

Once you are done, remove it from the heat and let it cool a bit. Don’t let it cool too much (I’ll explain why in a bit) but cool enough where it won’t burn you if some splashes on you. Next I use a colander to strain out the liquid from the bones and mirepoix. I then strain it through an actual strainer to remove any small items. When doing this, I would strain it into a smaller container and not back into the pot. Once you do, let it sit for a few hours. You will see the fat start floating to the top. Once it is completely cooled, you can easily remove all the excess fat from the top with a spoon. At his point, you will notice that your stock has solidified and is Jello like. This is what you want to see. That means you pulled out all the cartilage from the bones. A store bought stock doesn’t do this because they put additives in it. Because of this solidification is the reason why you don’t want the stock to cool down completely prior to straining. At this point, you are done. You can freeze it or use it right away in soups, like I did. Don’t worry about the Jello texture of it. Once you reheat it, it will turn back to liquid.

Now onto the soup which is really simple. I already had 2 cups of stock I made a few weeks ago in the freezer, so I thawed that and added in the stock I just finished making into a stock pot. Let that heat up to a simmer. For veig’s, I use a mirepoix for the soup as well, but I small dice everything. Add that to the stock. Now for the chicken. The chicken that you removed from the bones, either shred it by hand or cut it into small pieces. You don’t have to be too accurate on the size of the chicken pieces as they will fall apart when it simmers in the soup. Add the chicken to the pot. Let everything simmer together until the chicken starts to fall apart and the carrots a fork tender. Now add in egg noodles. (as much noodles as you like). Let the soup continue to simmer until the noodles are cooked to your liking. At that point you are done! Oh and make sure you are seasoning with salt and pepper when you add each ingredient. I let everything simmer a bit too long and a good amount of the stock evaporated. I would only let it simmer for a total of 30-40 mins.

This soup is great on a cold day! At that point, I usually just have the soup for dinner. Some of my friends tell me that soup is not a full meal, but I disagree. I will usually then have the soup for lunch the next day and then the soup and salad for dinner the next time. If I still have soup leftover and am tired of it, go ahead and throw it in the freezer.

You can use store bought stock in place of fresh stock, but your outcome will not be the same quality in my opinion. Oh also, when using the fresh stock in the soup, your soup will solidify also, just as the stock did. Don’t be afraid of this, just heat it and its perfect. This is a great tasting and actually really cheap meal that can feed ~4 people. The chicken cost is ~$2 assuming you used ¼ of the chicken for the soup. The vegi’s used to make the stock and the soup is ~$2. Depending on how many noodles you use, it’s roughly $1 for a total of ~$5. Making the stock does take some time, but for a few hours and a few bucks, you can make a great chicken noodle soup.

Let me know what you think. If you have any other variations or different ingredients for chicken noodle soup, please share!

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