Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homemade & Savory

Good evening everyone! Now that it's officially fall - I can delve into my favorite fall/winter dishes. Mainly, soups & stews. I am a fan of homemade soups simply because of their simplicity in premise but complexity in flavor. A few simple ingredients can become an amazing dish that warms you to the core. It's cooking at its best! If you're a long time reader of the blog, you'll remember last fall I experimented (multiple times) with my favorite soup - potato soup. I tried multiple variations and finally created a homemade, original recipe that ended up winning the day.

This fall, I've set my sights on another soup - chicken noodle - to create a 'perfect' version. Much like last year's foray into potato soups, I decided to try a few recipes from established sources before I set out to create my own version. Tonight's first recipe comes form the folks at America's Test Kitchen that is sure to get us off on the right foot. I can promise you over the next few months, there will be a few chicken noodle soup recipes from this blog - I can also promise you that they will all be different. It's sure to be fun (who doesn't like discovering and creating perfect recipes?) so let's get started!

The Recipe: Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
Original Recipe Found In:  The Complete America's Test Kitchen Cookbook

What You'll Need:

For The Stock:

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
4 Pounds Chicken Pieces (Or one whole chicken) Breast / Thigh meat preferred
1 Medium White Onion (Minced)
2 Quarts Boiling Water
2 Teaspoons Table Salt
2 Bay Leaves

For The Soup:

2 Tablespoons Chicken Fat (Reserved from the stock)
1 Medium White Onion (Minced)
1 Large Carrot (Chopped 1/2 in. pieces)
1 Celery Rib (Chopped 1/2 in. pieces)
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
2 Cups Egg Noodles
1/4 Cup Fresh Minced Parsley

* As usual when a recipe calls for carrots and celery, we like to substitute with things we have on hand - such as frozen vegetable medley (composed of carrots, peas and corn).

For the stock:

Begin by heating the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add half of the chicken pieces to the dutch oven and cook until lightly browned on each side (about 5 minutes per side). Transfer the pieces to a large bowl and set aside. Continue cooking the remaining pieces until all chicken pieces are browned. Leaving the fat and grease in the pan, add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pot and allow the chicken to cook completely, until the pieces begin to release their juices. This should take about 20 minutes.

Next, add the boiling water to the dutch oven as well as the salt and bay leaves. Increase the heat to high and allow to simmer until all of the flavors have blended - about 20 minutes. This process is essentially creating the stock for the soup. You're infusing the natural chicken flavors into the water base, creating a flavorful chicken stock that no grocery store can match.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and set aside to cool. Once cooled, discard the skin and shred the meat from the bones of the chicken pieces. Discard the bones and reserve the chicken meat in a bowl. Set aside. Carefully remove the dutch oven from heat and filter the stock through a large mesh strainer into another container. This allows any 'chicken debris' and the bay leaves to be caught while keeping the great flavor of the stock in place.

Allow the liquid to settle for 5 minutes. This will cause the fat and grease to rise to the top so it can easy be skimmed off with a spoon or paper towel. Be sure to reserve of the grease for use in making the soup. You can store the shredded chicken pieces and stock for 2 to 3 days if you want to make the base ahead of time.

To make the soup, begin by heating the reserved chicken fat in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Next, add the dried thyme and your chicken stock and allow the mixture to simmer until the vegetables have softened.

Finally, add the noodles and shredded chicken and cook until the noodles become tender, roughly 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley, season lightly with salt and pepper - serve and enjoy!

The Results:

Not a bad start for the quest for a perfect chicken noodle soup recipe. It's amazing what a homemade base can do for a soup. Rather than just using chicken stock and achieving an 'okay' result, spending the extra 20 minutes on making it from scratch really shows up in this dish. The base of the soup is so full of flavor, you'll never be able to make (or eat) a condensed soup again. This was a very simple, flavorful dish that is worth an attempt at home!

That's all we have for you this week. We're back on Monday with another trip Around The Culinary World. Until then,


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