Real chicken noodle soup has to start with a real chicken stock. Bouillon cubes aren’t stock. They are leftover scraps from the chicken processing industry, boiled down, with enough salt and flavor enhancers to preserve a dead body.
Their color is usually annatto, which in itself isn’t bad, but it is misleading. Some of the canned broths are alright, but nothing beats the real deal, which is incredibly easy to make. So let’s start with making a good, rich stock.
1 whole fryer chicken
2 yellow onions, outer layer of skin peeled and cut into quarters
4 good sized carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
½ head celery, washed and roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
Any herbs you would like to add
Start out by removing the meat and skin from the bones. Don’t worry if you haven’t deboned a chicken before, you aren’t trying to make anything look pretty. The meat will be diced up for the soup, so just hack away until you get all of the meat you can off of the bird.
Anything you miss will just add flavor to the stock. Don’t forget to add the gizzard and other organs that come inside the bird, they add a lot of flavor. As for the skin, I don’t put it in my stock because it makes it scummy. I prefer to render the fat from it to sauté my vegetables in (rendering is just slowly cooking to remove fat without browning).
Place the carcass and vegetables in a large stockpot, fill the pot with COLD water about 2 inches above the bones.
Slowly bring to a simmer. We are looking for 3 or 4 bubbles a minute. If the stock boils it will become cloudy and scummy, so we want to take our time. We want it to be at a simmer for about an hour. A little longer is fine, but no less than 1 hour.
Strain. I use cheesecloth to strain my stocks, I don’t want any nasty little bits getting through. If you have time, let the stock cool over night in the refrigerator so it can form a fat cap on top.
The next morning pull off the fat. I like to save the fat to sauté the veggies for the soup. It’s fine if you don’t have the time to wait for the fat cap to form, it will just make the soup a little cloudy, and you will have to skim it more often to remove grease.
Reduce the stock. Now you can put it on high heat. We are trying to concentrate flavor in this step, so you want to boil down to about half of the total liquid you started with.
Now we have the base for our soup. That was the hard part. Next is the easy, fun part that will make your house smell incredible and will get anyone in smelling distance excited for the finished product.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Meat from 1 whole chicken (above), diced into small chunks
2 yellow onions, diced fine
4 large carrots, sliced
1 head celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts (almost 2 Liters) chicken stock
1 pinch red pepper flake
1 dash soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Your favorite pasta
If you want a cloud free soup, you have to cook the chicken separately from the soup pot. I like to bake the diced chicken with salt, pepper, basil, and tarragon, but use whatever you like. Bake at 350 deg F (180 deg C) for about 12 minutes.
The chicken doesn’t have to be completely cooked as it will finish in the soup and you don’t want it dried out. This step can be done while doing step 2
In a large pot, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil, or better yet, your reserved chicken fat. Place on a medium low heat, we don’t want to brown anything. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook the veggies at a low temp until the onions become translucent. Add the garlic and cook until you can really smell the garlic.
I add a little salt and pepper every time I add ingredients to a pot, this helps with flavor overall, but also helps extract the juices from the ingredients. Deglaze with a couple cups of the stock, scrapping the bottom of the pan. Let this come to a good boil while moving on to step 3.
In a separate pot, cook your noodles. What kind of pasta you use isn’t that important, as long as you remember that the noodles will keep cooking in the soup. So a little under done is better than perfectly cooked pasta. I cool the noodles before I add them to the soup so they have a chance to firm up a little. You will need to salt the water heavily, as the pasta will absorb a lot of salt from the soup. The water should taste like the sea.
Combine. Add the rest of the stock to the pot and bring to a good simmer. Add the red pepper flake and soy sauce (the soy sauce adds salt, color, and a natural ingredient that enhances flavor). Taste and adjust seasoning.
Now add the chicken, being careful not to get any of the scum from the pan in the soup. Allow to simmer for a few more minutes and taste, adjusting seasoning as needed. When the soup seems to be just right, add the noodles and simmer for a few more minutes. After adding the noodles you may find that you need to add more salt and/or soy.
And there you have it – a real Chicken noodle soup – Enjoy!
If you also like to dabble in a bit of chicken soup making – please feel free to comment below with your tips or ideas – after all a better Chicken Noodle Soup can only make the world a better place.