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Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

Oh, will the rain EVER end?  When I'm driving home from work and I can't hardly see out of the windshield because it's raining so hard, all I can think about making for dinner is a pot of warm, comforting soup! 

Today, the mood seem to be homemade chicken noodle soup for me and the little ones..
Now you can go about this in a number of ways.  Optimally, you would cover all the raw chicken pieces (bones, skin and all) with water, add vegetables, and simmer to make a nice rich stock for a couple of hours.  Or.... as a busy mom or dad, you can take the liberties of using some modern day shortcuts.  Tonight was all about those shortcuts.  I'm going to show you how I did with my favorite convenience item - a rotisserie chicken.  I'm also going to tell you what to with the rest of the chicken once you've removed the meat.

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Ingredients:
  • rotisserie chicken   
  • water, or optional - box of chicken stock/broth
  • handful of carrots
  • handful of celery
  • 1/4 onion, diced, optional
  • salt, pepper, poultry seasoning
  • fresh thyme
  • egg noodles
Step-by-Step:
When you get home, let your helper pull the chicken apart... there is no right or wrong way, and they start snacking on something healthy, so you can't really lose here!
Remove the meat from the chicken and tear it into pieces.  Keep the carcass!  For a small pot of soup, I only use about 1/2 of the chicken.  The rest of the chicken gets popped into a freezer bag and labeled for another use later.  (We're really getting a lot of mileage out of the $5 chicken, huh?)  When the whole family is home, I use a whole chicken (about 3 - 4 cups meat).
 
Now that you've removed all of the meat, throw the carcass and skin into a big pot, cover with water, add some seasoning (salt, pepper, an onion, celery, carrot, thyme, poultry seasoning.... really it can be whatever you want), and let it boil for an hour or two.   The marrow from the bones and the seasoning from the skin, meat, etc will condense and give you a lovely chicken stock.  This will be our soup base. 
 

 
After the broth has condensed and is rich and flavorful, remove all the skin, bones, and seasoning.   I'm going to keep the carrots and throw the rest out.
 
Just an extra tip.  If you have more stock than you need for the soup, do your self a favor and pour the rest of the cooled broth into ice cube trays (these are the silicone ones that I picked up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond) and freeze them.  
You can pop them out easily and store the frozen stock cubes in a gallon sized zip top bag.  The next time you need chicken broth/stock, you have a rich homemade version on hand for free!  You already paid for the chicken, so you may as well stretch that investment a bit.  This is both a time saver AND a huge money saver!  You can't beat that!
 
Next time you want a bit of soup ... 
On a night when you don't need a "big" pot of soup, all you need to do is throw a bunch of stock "cubes" into the pot.  If you don't have your own stock cubes, boil the carcass as I mentioned above.  At the very least, you can open a box or can of chicken stock or broth.  Since you aren't starting with a raw chicken, we need to start with some flavor.  The stock will make it taste like we've worked on this for hours.  This would even work for making yourself just a thermos of soup to bring to the office.  A few cubes, a handful of noodles.. and that's it!
Now back to using the carcass.  Here is the final broth for the soup.  See what a wonderful, rich soup base we have now?
I added maybe two handfuls of noodles.  .. it IS chicken noodle, after all.  There are so many shapes and sizes of noodles, that you get to have fun here.  Sometimes I use these straighter kinds, and sometimes the ones that look more "frilly."
Cook according to package directions for the noodles, then add in all the chicken that you removed at the beginning.  Let it heat though and get all juicy.  And that's it! It's super easy!
 
I think at this point, you HAVE to agree that this looks 1000 times better than chicken noodle out of a can!  Oh, I guess you can see that I fished the carrot pieces out of the "seasoning" pile and threw them back in there.  It needs a little color, and my daughter loves these.  I garnished with some fresh thyme leaves.

Now doesn't that warm up a rainy afternoon?
 

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Shrimp and Corn Soup
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Written Method:
This step is both a time saver and a huge money saver:  When you pick up a rotisserie chicken from
the supermarket (and don't we all?) and you've removed all of the meat, throw the carcass into a big pot, cover with water, add some seasoning (salt, pepper, an onion, celery, carrot, poultry seasoning.... really it can be whatever you want), and let it boil for an hour or two.  The marrow from the bones and the seasoning from the skin, meat, etc will condense and give you a lovely chicken stock.  After the stock is made, pour them into ice cube trays and freeze them.  You can pop them out easily and store the frozen stock cubes in a gallon sized zip top bag.  The next time you need chicken broth/stock, you have a rich homemade version on hand for free!  You already paid for the chicken, so you may as well stretch that investment a bit. 

So... if you don't have your own stock cubes, open a box or can of chicken stock or broth.  Since you aren't starting with a raw chicken, we need to start with some flavor.  The stock will make it taste like we've worked on this for hours.   To the broth, add the bones, some celery, carrots, some thyme, salt and pepper.  Add some more water (maybe just enough to cover) and let it boil for a while.

For a small pot of soup, I only use about 1/2 of the chicken. The rest of the chicken gets popped into a freezer bag and labeled for another use later.  After the broth has condensed and is rich and flavorful, remove all the skin, bones, and seasoning.   I added maybe two handfuls of noodles.  I threw a handful of baby carrot pieces back in there.  It needs a little color.

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