Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

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Living in Portland in the winter, chances are fairly high every day that it is going to be gray, rainy, gray, cold, gray, and did I mention gray? We had about a week of glorious sunshine, albeit with temperatures hovering around 30, but we’re back to the rain and gloom. Rain and gloom produces a deep longing for a piping hot bowl of soup, and since chances are fairly high you may also be suffering from a cold or ÜBERFLU this time of year, what better way to comfort yourself than by making a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup?

You can go all sorts of fancy with this and make your own stock and your own egg noodles like I did, or for a quicker version, use store-bought chicken broth and noodles.  I just happened to have 2 chicken backbones in the freezer asking to be made into stock, and a bag full of dried homemade egg noodles (leftover from making pappardelle with beef short rib ragu last week) sitting on the counter, but I’ve made the quicker version many times and it’s still tasty.

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For a ‘cheater’ quick chicken stock:

1 Tbsp olive oil

chicken backbones or other pieces

1 large, unpeeled carrot, roughly chopped

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

1 tsp whole peppercorns

1 tsp dried thyme, or several fresh sprigs thyme if you have it

several sprigs fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add an assortment of chopped bone-in chicken pieces or as I did, 2 backbones previously cut from a whole chicken carcass and frozen.  Cook over medium heat until deeply browned, then flip and brown on the other side as well. Add in roughly chopped large onion, roughly chopped  carrot, and 2 roughly chopped stalks of celery (these vegetables will be strained out after the stock is finished, so there’s no need to peel or chop them finely) and cook until they start to turn brown around the edges. Add in 1 quart (4 cups) water and the peppercorns, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves (I put the herbs/peppercorns inside a little disposable spice bag so they would be easy to remove from the stock). Be sure to scrape any browned tasty bits off the bottom of the pot (brown bits= tasty, rich flavor).  Bring the water to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium-low and let the stock simmer for about 45-60 minutes, or until the stock is a nice golden brown and the chicken-y aroma is making your mouth water.  Strain the stock to remove all of the vegetables, herbs, and the chicken.  If there are little bits of chicken on the backbones, make sure to get those off (use a fork if it’s too hot to touch) and add to your soup. This should make about a quart of chicken stock, which isn’t a ton, but to make a good bit of stock you would want to simmer it for at least 4 hours and I was doing a short-cut version where I combined it with some store-bought chicken broth.

To finish your soup:

2 small-medium onions, small dice

2 medium peeled carrots, small dice

3 medium stalks of celery, small dice

3-6 cloves garlic (I used 6 because they shoot a lot of vampire shows in Portland so you never know who’s going to show up here…)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (they have a lot more flavor and will not dry out like chicken breasts do if overcooked), chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 quart homemade chicken stock + 1 quart store-bought chicken stock (or all store-bought), fat skimmed off the homemade stock as much as possible

8 oz dried egg noodles, homemade or storebought

freshly ground black pepper to taste

kosher salt to taste (the amount you’ll need depends upon how salty your broth is, so taste the finished soup before adding more salt)

optional lemon juice to squeeze over finished soup

optional chopped cilantro or parsley

(also tasty with a fresh grating of parmigiano reggiano on top of the soup)

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If you’re making your own chicken stock, while it is cooking, heat another 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a second saucepan or skillet. Add the chopped boneless, skinless chicken thighs and sauté until golden brown. Add in the diced onion, celery, and carrots and sauté until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Pour in the 2 quarts of stock plus 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Add in the 8 oz of egg noodles and cook according to package directions (or for homemade, mine took about 4-5 minutes) until al dente.  Serve with a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro or parsley and/or a squeeze of lemon juice and grating of parmigiano reggiano.