Recipe source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style
“I’d like to think that when I invite friends to my house, they know what I’m *really* saying is ‘I love you; come for dinner.'” -Ina Garten
Welcome to Day 1 of Ina Garten Week! As I was skimming through this book, I noticed Ina included a lot of classic recipes that might seem simple or “everyday” to be publishing in a cookbook. And yet, I’ve never made a lot of them. Today’s post is one such example – homemade chicken noodle soup. (Jump to recipe) Not only have I not made it, I’ve never made my own chicken stock, which really is a fundamental of cooking.
With a slight wince, this realization made me think of an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. He was observing two young, untrained chefs who were making a lot of ultra fancy, high-end food (the kind in little towers on big plates with a balsamic drizzle…), but they didn’t really know much about the basics. One had never shopped for meat before, and both failed a blind taste test to distinguish the difference between beef and pork. Ouch. Finally, Gordon asked them make him an omelet, the first thing they would have learned in cooking school. One said, “I’ve never made an omelet before.” With his classic incredulous look and best sneering British accent, Gordon said, “Oh, don’t be steew-pid!”
So, here goes. I am going to de-stupid myself with a few recipes in this book, starting with chicken noodle soup.
Making homemade chicken stock
From what I can tell, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making a stock. The basics are, throw some chicken, vegetables, and seasonings into a large pot, cover with cold water, turn on the heat and let it cook until you think it’s ready.
My inspiration for making my own stock came from a knife skills class we took for my birthday. The instructor taught us to save all our vegetable scraps in a bowl when preparing our mis en place for any recipe – including onion skins, carrot peels, celery stems, garlic heels, herb trimmings, and any other vegetable we find flavorful. (A trio of carrots, onions, and celery is the basis for most soups and stocks, and is called a mirepoix.) Freeze these in large Ziploc bags, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to make a stock. I have also started freezing my veggies just before they turn, if I can tell I won’t have the time or energy to cook with them. I hate throwing away food, and this habit has been a relief to my conscience! Sometimes life just gets in the way after I do my grocery shopping… and unless you’re Martha Stewart or June Cleaver, I imagine you can relate. 🙂
If you’re making a chicken stock, there are a few options. You can use a storebought rotisserie chicken, as this article suggests, or use the scrap bones, skin, and innards from a bird you’ve carved yourself. I did the latter, after spontaneously deciding to buy and de-bone three whole chickens one night, with nothing more than an online video to guide me. I’m pretty sure I did it wrong, but it was a surprisingly empowering experience!
I was also excited to finally unearth this beautiful Williams-Sonoma pot my mother gave me, which has been sitting for years in its box. This was the perfect pot for making a stock – 8 quarts, with an inner pot for straining pasta, or in this case, chicken and veggies. If you don’t have a pot like this, you can line your pot with cheesecloth to making straining easier.
So to begin, add your chicken, veggies, herbs, salt and pepper into your stock pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a slow boil. Turn heat down to medium and simmer for a few hours, taste-testing as you go, until the stock is flavorful. You will want to skim the chicken’s white fat from the surface periodically. How concentrated you make the stock is a matter of personal preference, but if it is strong, always remember you can water it down later.
To store, you can strain the stock into several Tupperware containers, freeze, then transfer to gallon-size freezer bags until needed. Ice cube trays can also be handy for freezing small amounts of stock. One thing I learned – as the stock cools, a layer of fat will rise to the surface. It is easier to skim this off while the stock is still liquid, so let the stock cool at room temp or in the fridge, if possible. I made my stock at night and wanted to sleep, so it cooled in the freezer. It was slightly more difficult to scrape the fat off the frozen stock.
Making chicken noodle soup
I hope the above doesn’t sound intimidating, because it’s really not, and it’s so worthwhile. After years of fighting with nasty bouillon cubes that would never dissolve and were undoubtedly filled with sodium and preservatives, I smelled my homemade stock and it smelled like chicken noodle soup all by itself! So warm and comforting, I had forgotten what that smell was like. And once you’ve made your stock, the rest of the soup is a breeze.
In a large pot, warm two quarts of chicken stock, then add carrots, celery, and wide egg noodles. I used “No Yolks” brand egg noodles in my recipe, as they have no added cholesterol. In the ten minutes these are cooking, you can prepare your chicken.
Ina Garten suggests roasting a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, but frankly, I don’t see the point. Finding bone-in, skin-on chicken breast can be difficult, and it’s easy to over-roast and dry out your chicken in the oven. My preferred method is to filet a boneless, skinless breast, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cook through in a pan with a little oil over medium heat, then pull with a fork along the natural lines of the breast to shred. It will look like this.
Once the noodles are fully cooked, add the cooked chicken and parley to the pot and heat through. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve up a big bowl of this comforting goodness!
RECIPE – Chicken Noodle Soup
Forget canned soup – this is the real thing. And wouldn’t we all feel better after eating a bowl? I love having homemade chicken stock in the freezer so I can make this soup in a hurry.
1 whole (2 split) chicken breast, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups wide egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred or dice the chicken meat.
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley and heat through.
Season to taste and serve.