Grandma-Style Chicken Noodle Soup | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Grandma-Style Chicken Noodle Soup

Grandma-Style Chicken Noodle Soup

Grandma-Style Chicken Noodle Soup (Deb Perelman)

8 hearty servings

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At some point, and with the best of intentions, chicken noodle soup has gotten more complicated, intimidating, and expensive than it needs to be, and I’m guilty as any cook as charged. Almost every first-page search result for chicken noodle soup implores you to start with canned chicken stock and then add chicken (sometimes already cooked) with the understandable goal of speed, but at the expense of efficiency. On the other end of the spectrum, some of the more popular recipes out there—with a chef-level “best” and “ultimate” in mind—require a couple birds just to make the broth and then have you discard them when you’re done, using additional fresh chicken to finish, as if there is nothing else a boiled chicken is good for.

I don’t say this to tut-tut someone else’s soup happy place or warble about the good old days; I throw no shade at boxed broths, bouillons, and shredded rotisserie chickens and don’t think my way is the only way. I just think it’s a bummer that somewhere along the way, a really useful piece of kitchen knowledge has been lost: how to boil a chicken. How to buy a chicken, a couple onions, a bag of carrots, and celery, and some egg noodles at a store and turn it into eight substantial bowls of dinner. How to stretch $20 of ingredients into a series of meals you cannot buy anywhere else for that price. How to wake up on a day that’s too cold or too dark or knowing that a flu is closing in on you . . . and know exactly how to make it better.

And I think if we knew how to do those things, we would, because this recipe is hard not to feel victorious about once you know how to make it. For years I too bounced between overly hasty methods that left me short on flavor, and overly complicated methods that meant homemade chicken noodle soup became a rarity. So when we made it this way one cold Sunday afternoon, simmering away and leaving us free to be lazy (you’ll need between 2 and 3 1/2 hours, which allows for at least one Harry Potter movie), it was a revelation, and this has become a frequent Sunday tradition ever since. It’s a satisfying result to coax out of a few ingredients and a triumphant feeling to start the week with Monday’s dinner already made.

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Ingredients

Broth:

1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil of your choice or butter

2 large onions, unpeeled, quartered

2 medium carrots, cut into 1-to-2-inch segments

2 celery stalks, cut into 1-to-2-inch segments

2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and lightly smashed

A handful of parsley stems (save the leaves for garnish)

2 teaspoons peppercorns

1 bay leaf

One 3 1/4-to-4-pound (about 1 3/4-kilogram) chicken, either whole or cut into halves so it fits better in your pot

3 1/2 quarts (14 cups or 3 1/3 liters) water


To finish:

8 ounces (225 grams) dried egg noodles

5 celery stalks, in 1/2- to-1-inch chunks

5 medium carrots, in 1/2- to-1-inch chunks

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chopped fresh parsley leaves, to finish

Steps

Make the broth: Heat the oil or butter in the bottom of your largest pot (8 quarts is ideal here; see note) over medium heat, and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re browned in spots and a little soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley stems, peppercorns, bay leaf, and chicken, then the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, mostly covered, for 25 minutes, then use tongs to remove the chicken from the broth, leaving the broth covered on the lowest heat. As soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and pick the meat from the bones, covering it and setting it aside until needed. Return the bones to the stock and bring it back to a simmer. Cook, mostly covered, for 1 to 2 hours; less time will make a fine pot soup; a longer amount of time will make an even more developed flavor.

Pour the soup through a fine-mesh strainer, wipe out your stockpot, and return the broth to it. (You should have about 3 quarts of stock.)

Cook the noodles: Bring a separate pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions; drain when finished.

Finish the soup: Meanwhile, bring the soup broth back to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste—I usually need at least 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of pepper adds a nice warmth—then add the additional celery and cook for 5 minutes; then the additional carrots, and cook everything together for 7 to 10 minutes more, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the reserved chicken and noodles, taste again for seasoning and adjust as needed, and heat just to warm through. Ladle into bowls and finish with fresh herbs.

Notes:

I often swap one onion in the soup base for 2 leeks, halved, cleaned, and cut into 2-inch segments, and 1 carrot for a parsnip. I’ll sometimes add another leek, sliced in 1⁄2-inch rings, to the final soup vegetables. And I insist on finishing my soup with fresh dill as well, but these are of course personal preferences.

You can put the whole chicken directly in your pot, but I do find if I split or quarter it (kitchen shears make easy work of this and your soup won’t know whether you’ve “properly” butchered the bird), it’s a little easier to get the meat off later.

Once I strain the broth, I discard the vegetables; to me, they have imparted all the flavor they can, and I resume with fresh ones for additional flavor and a prettier finish. I have heard from many people over the years that this feels wrong to them in every way. If you are in this camp, return the original vegetables to the final soup and skip the addition of new ones.

Why boil the noodles in a separate pot? Because I have experienced the heartbreak of spending hours making a glorious soup broth only to have the noodles drink all my hard work up and don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Some people add a bouillon cube to the boiling water, which will impart a more soupy flavor to the noodles, but I find that they pick up plenty enough when you return them to the soup.

I haven’t always had an 8-quart pot but I had a little trick I used instead. I put in all the ingredients and as much water as I could in my pot, often having a quart that didn’t fit. Because liquid will evaporate as you simmer the base, I’d keep adding the water throughout, keeping the pot as full as possible until all the extra water was used. You can also divide this recipe between two smaller pots. It’s really just for the first part (with the whole chicken) that you’ll need the biggest pot. Once you return the chicken carcass, you can get away with a 5- or 6-quart pot.

Do ahead: You can easily make the soup base one day and finish it with the noodles, reserved chicken, and additional vegetables the next. Assembled, this keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days and for up to 2 months in the freezer. (To store the soup in the freezer, I transfer it to freezer bags and try to remove as much air as possible.)


Excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. Copyright © 2017 by Deb Perelman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.

Find more recipes from Deb Perelman here.