What better way to introduce our new "Soup, Beautiful Soup" series than with the queen:
Many an adult goes directly back to kid-dom with that first slurp of noodles and golden, herb-flecked broth. Growing up, I thought of it as a special treat; my dad hated chicken noodle soup, having had far too much of it during his stint in the Army. (He also disliked macaroni & cheese for the same reason, as well as sour cream and cottage cheese. "Spoiled," he'd sneer. And from a farm boy's viewpoint, he was right.) Whenever he went on a business trip, the first thing that dropped in the grocery cart was a can of Campbell's Chicken & Noodle.
I still love Campbell's. (Had it for lunch today, in fact, with a spoonful of green curry sauce and a beaten egg stirred in until it was white and fluffy. Yum.) But the best chicken noodle soup? Homemade. The longer it cooks (sans noodles), the better -- use a crockpot for easiest results.
HOMESTYLE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
*Two large cans of chicken broth
*10-12 cups of water and four chicken bouillon cubes
*Homemade chicken broth
-- cook 1 lb of chicken parts in 12 or so cups of water, simmering, for 4 hours, or up to 10 hours on low in a crockpot. For even more powerful results, use a whole chicken! Add 1 whole onion and a stalk of celery, as well. Strain the broth, discard veggies and debone the chicken. OR
-- scavenge chicken bones from a recent meal. (Even off people's plates - the heat will sterilize them.), Add onion, celery and other vegetable trimmings. Simmer in a kettleful or crockpot of water for at least 6 hours or more. Strain and keep the broth.
up to two cups each of chopped onion, celery, carrots, beans, peas, green or red pepper -- your choice, but the onion and celery really add flavor. (Stay away from beets -- but their greens, as well as kale, collards and others, can be added in the last few hours of cooking. Add chopped spinach just before serving.)
1-2 tablespoons of some kind of herbs -- I favor marjoram, but others love a mix of marjoram, basil, rosemary and garlic
1 teaspoon hot sauce, salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
A handful, up to 2 cups chopped chicken, cooked or raw
Two cups uncooked homestyle noodles
Dump the broth, whatever veggies you've chosen, spices, hot sauce and chicken in a kettle or crockpot. (Stir occasionally if you can...but it's not critical.) Cook on low at least 4 hours up to 12 hours or so, adding water if needed. Approx. 45 min. to an hour before you serve, add noodles. Cook until they're tender, then adjust for taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4-6 hungry people.
*Chicken and rice -- instead of noodles, add 1 cup cooked rice just before serving, or 1/3 cup uncooked one hour before. (Warning: this soup does not keep well -- the rice expands and gets mushy. You'll have rice stew, rather than soup.)
*Green chili chicken -- add 1 small can green chilies, plus a small can of chopped tomato. Onion and a tablespoon of garlic are important here.
*Which came first? -- ten minutes before serving, stir in 1-2 beaten eggs, simmer until eggs are set and fluffy. Add 3-4 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice just before serving, plus a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro, if you like that taste. (Adding the lime juice first makes the egg bits break apart in very odd ways. Cook the eggs first.)
Tomorrow: Vichyssoise and other hot-to-cold soups