Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chicken Noodle Soup

On a cold day like today, soup just fits the bill, doesn't it? I pretended I was "snowed in" and had to make lunch from scratch with what we had on hand. I turned to another of the recipes that has its home on a post-it note in my spice cupboard. This one contains my furious scribblings made during a phone conversation with my mom-in-law, Leslie.

I must have bugged her for her soup recipe three or four times before I finally got around to really trying it. I have included her general instructions (as I understand them) for those of my readers who may just be starting to dream that there is more to life than what comes in a can.

  • Onion
  • Carrots and celery
  • Noodles
  • Chicken
  • Chicken bullion (cubes or powder)
  • Water
  • Flour (small amount)
  • Butter
You will notice that there are no exact amounts listed above. That is because there is quite a bit of flexibility there. There is also a lot of room for ingredient substitution, as I will point out during the directions. But don't panic... I will tell you what I did today, and if you want you could follow that exactly. Here goes...

We start with the onion. This, in my opinion, is what gives the base flavor for the soup. Today I had decided I was making soup long before I discovered I was lacking onion. What? No onion? Bummer. I went out to my garden and dug two pitiful little specimens out of the soil. (Now, I'm sure someone who knows something about gardening will comment and tell me this isn't the time to pick them - either I'm late or way early - but I am under the impression that onions can be eaten at any stage in their growth, and I needed it today.)

Now, I knew that this wasn't as much onion as is called for. Leslie's original instructions called for a whole onion, and I usually use half of one of those large yellow ones. But I didn't feel like adding minced onion from my cupboard. So I improvised. You can too. Just fill in the gaps with what you have. In this case, I used garlic, since I knew that it was the same type of ingredient - an aromatic. I figured garlic never hurt anything, so I chopped up three big cloves and called it good.

Next I chopped up some veggies that I had in my fridge. I chose to use one carrot (that was all I had) and two celery sticks. You can use whatever vegetables you think will be tasty in your soup. If you have a bag of frozen vegetables, great - you won't even have to chop anything. Just throw it all in the pot with your onion.

Now is where my directions call for butter. Because I have a milk allergy, I routinely make substitutions for butter. And I have made this before with margarine, it works fine. But extra virgin olive oil is supposed to be healthier, so I went that route today. If you're out of butter - don't stress it. Just reach for a fat. All we really want here is to add a little flavor while we keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan and the onion from burning. Spray them with Pam, or chuck a dollop of Crisco in there - whatever you have to do - just add a little fat.

Sauté the vegetables (this means you've added the fat, and you are stirring it) until they are soft. But don't worry about the carrots getting soft. That would take too long. Now we are going to make a roux (Oooh... more french! We're getting fancy, aren't we?). Well, actually we are going to take the lazy way out. We are going to add 2 teaspoons of flour and it will mix with the fat that is already on the vegetables. (This flour will help thicken our broth.) Put a Tablespoon of water in there at the same time and stir. When it is mixed in, then add a couple cups of water.

Now we need to cook the noodles. Do this in a separate pot. Bring the water to a boil, add a pinch of salt if you feel like it, and two handfuls of egg noodles. The kind that I use are called "Country Pasta" and can be bought at Costco (see pic). They come in a big plastic bag.

If you prefer chicken soup with rice rather than noodles, you should go ahead and use a box of wild rice instead. I've not tried that yet, but I assume you would cook it separately the same way you do with the noodles. (Comments anyone?)

Anyway, drain your noodles once they've cooked, and add it to the pot with your veggies in it. At this point, add 4 or 5 cubes of chicken bullion to give it a lot of flavor. Let it continue to simmer.
Finally, the chicken. This is chicken noodle soup, after all, isn't it? If you have chicken breast left-over from last night's dinner, chop it up and add it. Or do you have pre-cooked chicken strips (like you might use for salad) in your freezer? Same thing. I didn't have anything ready, so I put two frozen chicken tenders on the Forman Grill and cooked them up right then.

Your soup might look something like the picture above now. I tossed in some Italian Seasoning and a dash of pepper at this point and removed it from the heat so it would cool down a bit so I could eat it.

Congratulations! You've made soup.

Recap of directions:

  • Cut up one medium onion, put it in a pot
  • Cut up veggies, add them to the pot
  • Put a Tablespoon or so of butter in and saute over medium heat until veggies are soft
  • Add 2 teaspoons of floor, and a Tablespoon of water, stir
  • Add 2 or 3 cups of water
  • Boil noodles in a separate pot; drain and add to veggies
  • Plop in 4 or 5 chicken bullion cubes (or the equivalent amount of bullion powder)
  • Let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Meanwhile, nuke or grill your chicken and cut into cubes
  • Toss in some seasonings. Italian is usually a good bet. And maybe a dash of pepper.


    Leslie said...

    Considering I din't give you any specific amounts for each ingredient, I applaud your final product! The pictures of your process are great too.

    Mer said...

    Thank you!

    And thanks again for teaching me how to make soup. :0)

    InspiredMumof2 said...

    That noodle soup looks good. Very thoughtful of you to post step my step pictures of cooking :-)

    Mer said...

    Glad you like it. I love cookbooks with pictures step-by-step, so I thought my readers probably would too. :0)

    Scribbit said...

    Looks terrific--soup is the perfect winter treat, our favorite!

    Yvo said...

    Yummmm! I never thought about thickening the broth, but that makes so much sense why some chicken noodle soup I've had has thicker broth than when I make it. I like to add the uncooked noodles directly to the broth though and let them cook that way- more flavor perhaps and the starch that comes out helps thicken it up a teensy bit as well. :) PLUS... I am super lazy and don't have to wash that extra pot, hahahahah!

    Mer said...

    Thanks, Scribbit. If I lived up north in the cold and snow, I'd probably make soup even more. :0)

    InspiredMumof2 said...

    hey mer, you are tagged! Please come to my blog to get it ;-)