It was cold in Los Angeles for exactly two days and I managed to make and consume a delicious batch of chicken soup before the hot weather returned with a vengeance. One has to jump on these opportunities when one gets them if one lives in LA. On a cold day you cannot do better than homemade chicken noodle soup. It does in fact feed the soul.
I was chatting the other night with a friend who cooks for her family every day, but does not consider herself a “cook.” One of the things she doesn’t make is soup. This is in part because the chopping required seems daunting to her, but in addition she is opposed to the need to be home for hours while tending the soup. I tried to reassure her on both counts. First, I think even 6 and 8 year olds can be taught to safely chop vegetables for soup. Give them a steak knife, not a chopping knife, and show them how to keep their fingers out of the way of the sharp part of the tool. Set the kids far enough apart that they won’t get in each other’s way. The great thing about soup is that it really doesn’t matter what the chopped carrots or celery look like, so it is a perfect starting point for kids. My children take enormous pride in meals they’ve helped prepare and the prep takes half the time if they chop the vegetables for me. Beyond this, many grocery stores now sell chopped vegetables. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Ralph’s – they’ve all got chopped carrots, celery and onions if you cannot bring yourself to spend ten minutes with a knife and cutting board. The next point is truthfully, I don’t make any soup that takes more than 30 minutes of prep work and 60-90 minutes of cooking time. I don’t have the patience. Some of my favorite soup recipes only take 45-50 minutes total to pull together (I’ll post some of the quickies soon).
This post includes two recipes for chicken soup. The first is my father’s basic Chicken Noodle Soup, and the second is my recipe for Chicken Chowder. Both my father and I suffer from serious soup addictions. We make soup, A LOT. I can make soup with just about any combination of ingredients. It is my failsafe meal. When I cannot find the energy or inspiration for something complex, I set my sights on soup.
My father puts a single jalapeno chili in his soup recipe. Even without the seeds, it packs a punch. Those with chili sensitive palates would do well to leave it out.
Chicken Noodle Soup (10-12 servings)
- 3 quarts of chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 3-5 pound chicken, rinsed and quartered
- 2 large onions, quartered
- 4 medium carrots, cut in large pieces
- 4 stalks celery, cut in large pieces
- ¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 parsnip, cut in large pieces
- 2 whole cloves of garlic
- 1 whole shallot (do not cut up)
- 1 green jalapeno chili, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 half package flat whites-only egg noodles
Bring first twelve ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot. Lower to simmer. Simmer uncovered for 90 minutes. Skim the surface of the soup to remove foam and fat.
Turn off burner. Put a large colander inside a large pot or bowl. Drain soup through colander. Return broth to the stockpot.
Separate the chicken from the vegetables. Discard garlic cloves, shallots and jalapeno chili. When cool enough to handle cut the vegetables into medium dice and return the vegetables to the soup pot. When the chicken is cool enough to handle hand strip the chicken from the bones. Return chicken meat to the soup pot.
Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to soup. Mazel Tov!
This next recipe is one of my favorites. If you have slightly vegetable averse children, this is a particularly good choice. It has double the vegetables. The first batch of vegetables are blended into the broth, and the second batch is chopped. My children adore this soup. It freezes well.
Chicken Chowder (8-10 servings)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (any quality will do)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large whole chicken (preferably organic), cut into 8 pieces
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 4 cups carrots, diced
- 2 leeks, carefully washed and diced
- 2 heads celery, trim tops off (discard) and dice
- 2 large russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 14-ounce package frozen sweet white corn
- 1 cup frozen petite whole onions
- 1-2 cups cream, half & half or whole milk
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil and butter in large stock pot. Salt and pepper chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides (about 4 minutes per side on medium-high heat). Remove chicken from pot and place in bowl while you prepare the vegetables. Brown onions, two cups carrots, one head celery, and the leeks until soft over medium heat. Approximately 12-15 minutes.
Add white wine and chicken broth. Bring to simmer. Add chicken and potatoes. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, approx 20 minutes. While cooking skim foam and fat off of the top. Remove chicken once cooked through and place on a cutting board to cool.
Place immersion blender in soup pot and blend until broth is smooth OR if you don’t own an immersion blender, blend soup in batches in either a Cuisinart or a blender. The only real advantage of the immersion blender is that it reduces the dishes you need to do afterwards.
Tear cooled chicken into small, bite-size pieces. Return to pot with two cups carrots, the second head of celery, frozen corn, frozen onions and cream (or half & half, or milk). Cook an additional 15-20 minutes until carrots and celery are just tender. Don’t overcook. Add salt and pepper to taste. Skim fat off of the top again. Serve.
Note: I find that commercial chicken broth is quite bland, but I rarely have the time or inclination to make my own chicken broth. As a consequence I often add bouillon or liquid chicken broth concentrate to soups to make them richer in flavor. I recommend adding one or the other to this soup if you use commercial stock as its base. I use Trader Joe’s “Reduced Sodium Liquid Concentrate, Chicken Flavor” or “Savory Choice Liquid Chicken Broth” which is carried by Whole Foods and a number of other retailers. They are small packets that come in a small box. You can add one packet at a time and taste the soup after each addition. For a batch of soup this large I often add four packets. I’m partial to the turkey flavored concentrates because they have a bit more gusto than the chicken – but that is just a personal preference.