Chicken noodle soup is such a classic. I’ve been wanting to make it for a very long time, but to be honest I was a little intimidated. This may seem strange considering that I have a slight obsession with soup, but it’s just that this is such a classic dish, I was worried whatever I made would fall short of greatness. It seemed like a soup that could so easily be incredibly bland, and I just don’t do bland. Bland foods were a fear of mine from childhood, and I’m still not over it. I also didn’t want to spend hours and hours making chicken stock the old fashioned way. I know, I know, homemade chicken stock is supposed to be great and everyone swears by it, but it honestly grosses me out a little bit (the whole chicken situation) and I was looking for a quicker option.
Cook’s Illustrated came to the rescue big time. They created this fantastic version of chicken noodle soup that is packed full of flavor. This recipe calls for a combination of chicken broth and homemade chicken stock. The stock is made with a somewhat untraditional method, using ground chicken. I was thrilled with the final result, and was amazed by just how flavorful the soup turned out. The wonderful broth base combined with chicken, lots of veggies and egg noodles made for an amazing final product. I used kale instead of Swiss chard simply due to availability, and I loved the lemony bite that the kale provided. My only dislike was the chunks of potato added to the mix. As we all know, potatoes need salt. Because of the way these potatoes are added to the soup and cooked, they ended up with essentially no seasoning. I didn’t really think they contributed anything in the way of flavor and I will omit them next time. One final bit of praise is for the ratio of chicken, veggies and noodles to broth – it was perfect. I don’t like soups that are primarily broth with an occasional chunk of the good stuff. This was full of the chicken, veggies, etc. and the broth helped to accentuate the flavors.
Chicken Noodle Soup
For the stock:
1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 lb. ground chicken
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
1 qt. water
2 qt. low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
2 bone-in, skin on chicken breast halves, cut in half crosswise
For the soup:
3 tbsp. cornstarch
¼ cup cold water
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup peeled and sliced carrot
½ cup celery, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup (4 oz.) egg noodles
4-6 Swiss chard or kale leaves, ribs removed and torn into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
To make the stock, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground chicken, onion, carrot and celery to the pot. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add water, broth, bay leaves, salt and chicken breasts. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. (If the liquid is already boiling, remove the chicken breasts immediately and proceed.) Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside. Continue to cook the stock for 20 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or other container. Press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Allow the stock to settle for about 5 minutes. Skim fat off the surface.
Return the stock to the Dutch oven. Heat over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water; whisk together until a smooth slurry forms. Stir the mixture into the stock and bring to a gentle boil. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook 10-15 minutes. Add the egg noodles and continue to cook until vegetables are tender and the noodles are cooked, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and discard. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken, Swiss chard or kale, and parsley to the soup. Cook just until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.
Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, December/January 2009