Without fail, as soon as the holidays are over, I get a big pot of chicken soup simmering away on the stove. Somehow, it feels like a cleansing ritual after weeks of indulging.
Sometimes the chicken soup takes on a global flavor. It might have a Thai twist with fresh chiles, lemongrass, lime juice and fish sauce. Or I might turn it into a Latin American version with tomatoes and dried chiles.
This year, though, I have decided to go old school and make my mother's chicken noodle soup.
Her soup was a labor of love. She started by browning chicken pieces in her well-worn Dutch oven. Then she added onions, carrots and celery, along with chicken stock she had likely made the day before and a generous amount of fresh herbs.
I remember the fragrance of thyme filling the house as the soup simmered away long enough for the chicken to become tender, ready to be pulled off the bone and shredded into bite-sized pieces.
Then she did the thing that, for me, set her soup apart from all others. She added her own handmade egg noodles.
Those noodles, thick and soft, with just the perfect amount of chewiness, made my mother's soup legendary. Well, at least in my family.
So, this week's Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup pays homage to the one I grew up enjoying.
Although the soup would be delicious using dried egg noodles, if you have the time and inclination, I strongly encourage you to make them from scratch. You won't be sorry.
The Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup
Homemade noodles do add an extra step to the soupmaking process (and they need to be started in advance), but they are hearty, slightly chewy and oh, so satisfying. If you think you'll have leftovers, or if you would like to prepare the soup ahead of time, make sure to cook and store the noodles separately to prevent them from absorbing too much broth and becoming mushy. From Meredith Deeds.
• 3 lb. bone-in chicken thighs
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
• 1 tbsp. canola oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 16 c. chicken broth
• 4 celery ribs, chopped
• 4 medium carrots, chopped
• 2 bay leaves
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 recipe homemade egg noodles (see recipe) or 12 oz. dried wide egg noodles
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tbsp. lemon juice
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season the side without the skin with the salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken, skin side down, and cook both sides until brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and remove and discard skin. Repeat with remaining half of chicken. Discard all but 2 tablespoons drippings.
Add onion to the drippings; cook and stir over medium heat until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Add the chicken, celery, carrots, bay leaves and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove soup from the heat and transfer chicken to a plate to cool.
When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones; discard bones. Shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes if using homemade noodles, about 7 to 8 if using dried noodles. Return meat to stockpot. Stir in parsley and lemon juice. If desired, adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs before serving.
To prepare in advance: Make the recipe as directed, without adding the noodles. Cool the soup and transfer to freezer-safe containers. In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook the noodles until not quite al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with a tablespoon of oil to prevent sticking together and place in a freezer bag. Freeze noodles separately. To use: In a saucepan, bring soup to a simmer on low heat. Add noodles and cook with soup for 2 or 3 minutes, until tender.
Homemade Egg Noodles
Makes about 1 pound.
This recipe needs to be made in advance to allow the dough time to rest. From Meredith Deeds.
• 2 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
• 1/2 c. milk
Place the flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the eggs and yolk and process for 20 seconds, or until the mixture looks like fine cornmeal. With the processor running, drizzle in the milk.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly by hand. The dough should be soft and smooth, but should not stick to your hands. Sprinkle with a little more flour if necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap. Let sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, keeping the rest of the dough covered, use a rolling pin or pasta roller to roll the dough out to 1/8-inch. Cut into strips about 2 inches long and 1⁄2 inch wide. Use immediately as directed in the recipe or spread out into a single layer on a large baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes, until firm. Transfer to a freezer bag. Noodles can be frozen for up to 1 month and can be used directly from the freezer.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.