Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Once you’ve already spent 4+ hours making amazing homemade chicken broth, making chicken noodle soup is a snap. It’s perfect for a day like today: strong winds, torrential downpours, flooding… forget your to-do list and just stay inside with a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Ingredients, yields 2 meal-sized bowls of soup

  • 3 cups of homemade chicken broth
  • 1 chicken breast from the broth
  • 1-2 carrots from the broth
  • 1-2 parsnips from the broth
  • 1 piece of celery root from the broth
  • a couple handfuls of fresh egg noodles (cooked)
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • chopped fresh cilantro

Start by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh egg noodles and cook for just a minute or two. You can also use dried egg noodles (follow timing instructions from the package). After the noodles are cooked al dente, drain them and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process and rinse off the starch. Do not skip the step of cooking them first. If you think, “oh, I’ll just cook them in the boiling broth,” please reconsider. It changes the flavor of the broth and gives a starchy taste that takes away from the delicate flavor of good chicken broth.

On a plate or cutting board, dice the chicken breast and slice the broth vegetables into evenly-sized pieces. Add all of these and the chicken broth to a pot (I just give a quick rinse to the pot I used to cook the noodles). Heat the broth, meat, and broth vegetables over medium heat. Meanwhile, chop the parsley and cilantro. You may also want to run your knife through the noodles a few times. Though some people consider it a sacrilege, I prefer bite sized noodles to splashes of soup all over my favorite blouse. Once the broth is simmering, take it off the heat. Add the noodles and chopped herbs. Ladle it into soup bowls and enjoy.

Ribollita

It looks like the last few posts have all been filled with warm bowls of comforting food. It’s the time of year for hot soups and stews. So, here’s another favorite. Ribollita is a Tuscan soup made of seasonal beans and vegetables. It gets some of that delicious umami flavor from the cooked down parmigiano reggiano rinds and pancetta, not to mention the homemade chicken broth (see the post on liquid gold). Though, of course, it can also be made vegetarian or vegan by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth and omitting the pancetta and cheese.

Ribollita ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of dried cannellini beans (if you can get fresh ones, even better!), cooked
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4oz of pancetta tesa, cut into small pieces
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 pieces of leftover rinds from parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 2-3 cups of diced tomatoes (from a jar works just as well, if tomatoes aren’t in season)
  • 3-4 cups of homemade chicken broth
  • 1-2 sweet peppers (these are corno di toro), cleaned and chopped
  • a few handfuls of romano beans (you can use any type of green bean), cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch of kale, chopped
  • a few handfuls of baby chard (or a small bunch of regular chard)
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • white pepper
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (optional)
  • dry or toasted bread (optional)

You’ll want to plan ahead when making ribollita, especially if you’re using dried beans. Sort your dried beans to make sure there aren’t any rocks or unappealing beans in the bag you’re using. Rinse them thoroughly and soak them overnight or at least 8-10 hours in cold water. If you’re keeping them much longer than 12 hours before cooking, you’ll want to refrigerate them. When you return to the pot after letting them soak, you’ll notice that they will have soaked up a fair amount of water and have grown in volume.

Drain the beans and put them in a large pot with a couple inches of water cover. Bring the pot to a boil. When you notice the foamy substance rise to the surface, drain and rinse the beans and rinse the pot. Replace the beans in the pot and cover again with fresh water, a couple inches above the level of the beans. Bring the pot back up to a simmer and cook for at least an hour.

While the beans cook, prep your vegetables and other ingredients. Keep them separate so that you can add them in order of slowest cooking to quickest cooking. Begin by adding a little olive oil to a large soup pot and sweat the onions until just translucent. One by one, add the garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, and pancetta. After these start to cook a bit, add the peppers. Around this time, the beans should be almost ready to add to the pot too. Add them with their cooking liquid. Also add the parmigiano reggiano rinds, bay leaves, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Let this simmer for at least another 20 minutes before adding the kale, chard, romano (or other green) beans, and parsley. Season with sea salt, cayenne pepper, and white pepper. Cook for another 20-30 minutes.

Though delicious right off the stove, the ribollita is even better the next day. The name ribollita actually means reboiled and this soup benefits from bringing it up to a boil again when you reheat it. I also suggest letting it cool so it’s just warmer than warm (not hot) when you eat it. Many people enjoy putting some pieces of day old bread or toasted bread in the soup when serving. I like it both ways (pictured without bread). If you like, also sprinkle some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano on top.

ribollita on table

Liquid Gold aka Homemade Chicken Broth

Perhaps even more important than getting your flu shot, replenishing the freezer supply of homemade chicken broth before flu season begins is essential. When you’re sniffly, achy, and exhausted you’re not going to want to make anything, much less a soup that takes several hours to cook. As there’s nothing more soothing and restorative than a hot bowl or mug of homemade chicken broth, I always keep a few containers on hand in the freezer. It’s also great for cooking, though I never seem to get that far with it. Really, with a broth this good, you just drink it as is – no need for meat, vegetables, noodles, matzah balls, or even a spoon!

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, cut into parts
  • water
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled or unpeeled, whole
  • 3-4 parsnips, peeled, whole (or parsley root, if you can find it)
  • 1 large celery root, peeled, cut in four
  • 3 stalks of celery, cut in half
  • small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 small or 1 large onion, peeled, whole
  • salt
  • cayenne pepper, ground
  • white pepper, ground

Getting a good quality bird is really important when it comes to making soup. Mom and grandma always said that the bigger and older the bird the richer and tastier the broth. Though I don’t usually select my chicken based on age or size, I do like to get mine from a local organic chicken farm. I like to know that she roamed around in the sun, pecking at insects in the grass. The factory farm alternative is not so picturesque and, frankly, I think it affects the quality of the meat.

Cut your fresh chicken into parts (legs, wings, breasts, breast bone, back). Place the pieces into a large soup pot and cover with cool water. I usually go a couple inches above the level of the chicken but leave enough room to be able to add veggies to the pot later.

Bring the water and chicken to a boil. Use a skimmer to remove the foam that rises to the top after it starts to boil. When foam stops rising, add the vegetables. I mentioned above which ones I leave whole or cut. I usually tie the parley together gently with one of the thicker pieces of parsley. It requires a little finesse to tie it without breaking it but it makes it a lot easier to remove from the soup later. I add the parsley last so that it floats on top. After you add all of the vegetables, season with salt, cayenne pepper, and white pepper.

At this point, lower the temperature on the stove to a simmer and cover part-way with a lid. Simmer the soup on low heat for around 2 hours after adding the vegetables.

When the soup is done, remove all of the vegetables and meat. Throw away the onions, parsley, and celery. If you don’t mind mushy, you can eat the carrots, parsnip, and celery root. The vegetables were really just there to give the broth an amazing flavor. The meat, however, should be really tender and delicious after boiling for so long. In fact, the cartilage even start to break down and get soft. It’s not the most flavorful meat preparation but it can be dressed up with a sauce or combined with more dominant side dishes. I actually like it the way it is out of the pot. Again, the star of the show is the broth. So, ladle some liquid gold into your favorite mug or bowl right after making it and freeze the rest for a rainy day.