This is an excerpt from my new book, The A – Z Survival Guide to Life, which is actually a compilation of all my posts written as part of the A -Z Blogging Challenge from this year. My theme for the challenge was all the things I realized I had forgotten to tell my boys, who are now young men just starting out on that adventure we call Life. The handy dandy guide covers all sorts of things from A- Annoying People (how to avoid them, and if you can’t, how to deal with them), to U-UFOs (how to survive an alien abduction). Chicken Noodle Soup has been included in the Appendices, because it has been such an important part of their lives, and it is a useful weapon to have in our armory of survival skills.
Chicken Noodle Soup
The making of Chicken Noodle Soup is kind of a long-standing tradition in our household. When one of our family members develops a sore throat, a snuffley nose, or any other type of ailment attributed to a viral illness, a request for a pot of chicken noodle soup is sure to be placed. This recipe has been said to cure almost anything, from upset stomachs, to raging colds, throat pain from a tonsillectomy, and even the winter doldrums.
I read an article in a reputable medical journal years ago about the properties of homemade chicken noodle soup. I could have sworn I saved this article, but I have rummaged through my files and the boxes in the garage and was unable to locate it. In this article, the authors scientifically study the components of the chicken noodle soup and prove that the healing powers of the soup is not just an old wives’ tale. It turns out, the chicken fat in the soup increases the nasal mucous velocity, in other words, it will make your nose run more (which is a good thing), and also reduces the nasal congestion. The pepper in the soup, if I remember correctly, artificially raises the body’s temperature, making the body an unpleasant place for the cold virus. Those are the two virtues of chicken noodle soup I remember, off the top of my head. I am sure the celery, carrots, onions and boatloads of garlic help in some way. From our experiences, I have seen a dose of chicken noodle soup turn round a family member suffering from a cold, or the flu, in a matter of 12 hours.
This recipe takes a good 8 hours to prepare, most of it involves just simmering the pot on the stove, for at least 6 hours, longer is better. Oh, I remember another reason why chicken soup is so therapeutic, the boiling of the chicken for an extended period of time releases the marrow from the bones. It is said there is interferon within the marrow which protects healthy cells from being infected. I searched for any references regarding this therapeutic ingredient of chicken noodle soup, and can find nothing – so maybe I made this up in my head. Either way, time and time again, we have proven, at least amongst our family members, that homemade chicken noodle soup does really help.
Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe
- 2 Tbsps. olive oil
- 2 Tbsps. butter
- 2 onions
- 3 stalks of celery
- 3 carrots
- 2 Tbsps. chopped garlic
- 1 Tbsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. of basil
- 1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
- 2 boxes of chicken stock
- 4-6 ounces of dried noodles (spaghetti, or alphabet pasta is really cool, if you have kids).
In a big pot, like a huge pot – big enough to put a whole chicken in, with space to spare, melt the butter and oil over medium temperature. While the oil and butter are heating up (but don’t get it too hot), chop up your onions. Add them to the hot oil/butter mixture. Throw in the garlic, dump about 1 tsp of salt in (I read somewhere that salt is supposed to help release the oils from the onions when sautéing – again, I don’t know if this is true – but I do it anyway).
Stir the onion and garlic mixture and while you are waiting for the onions to become translucent (don’t let them get dark brown) slice the carrots and celery into small pieces, add into onion and garlic mixture. Stir frequently.
It is at this point, I throw the spices in. I never really measure the spices, so these amounts specified in the “Ingredients” section can be modified, but should be done so proportionately, in other words, add more Oregano than Basil. And you may find later, that you want to add other spices.
Stir the carrots, celery, garlic, onions, and spices together. By now, there should be the most delicious aroma arising from your pot, and it will draw people scattered throughout your house, into the kitchen, along with any dogs residing in your house, and perhaps animals and people that live on your street will come to your front door, searching for the source of that most exquisite fragrance.
After washing the chicken, and taking the packet of disgusting stuff out of the abdominal cavity, throw the chicken into the pot with the garlic, onions, celery, carrots and spices.
Pour chicken broth over the chicken and vegetable mixture – enough to cover the chicken, but not so much, when the soup begins to boil, it doesn’t boil over onto the stove (there is nothing more annoying than trying to clean encrusted chicken soup off of the stove, during the clean-up).
Allow the soup to come to a rip-roaring boil, stirring the potion to release the trapped veggies from under the chicken. When the solution has come to a boil, turn the heat down to low/simmer and cover. Make sure the soup is bubbling slowly, like those hot bubbling mud pits in New Zealand. You do not want to cook it too rapidly, or else it will burn, become bitter and taste like crap. And everyone will eat one bowl of it, the rest will sit in a storage container in the fridge, and at the end of the week, you will feed it to your dogs, having mixed it into their wet dog food.
Allow the soup to cook for about 6-8 hours, if you can (unless you have procrastinated the morning away, and you suddenly realize it is afternoon, and the soup still isn’t on the stove, cooking). If this is the case, you can cut the cooking time down to 4 hours, but this is not ideal if you wish to be rewarded with all the therapeutic qualities of the vegetables and the chicken. Of course, this has never happened to me, the procrastinating part – Haha!!!!
At this point, you might want to go take a nap. Be sure to assign a trustworthy family member to check on the level of the broth, and top it off with more if the fluid level in the pot becomes low, and no longer covers the chicken entirely. Have the assigned pot watcher stir the soup periodically. Do not entrust anyone playing video games in their bedroom to be the pot watcher. They can’t be depended on to come out every so often to check the soup. Just saying.
After your nap, make a cup of tea and check the soup to make sure the level of the fluid is still covering the chicken. When you are sufficiently awake, take the soup off the heat.
You can strain out all the vegetables if you want. I used to do this when you were younger, because one of you said you were allergic to vegetables and wouldn’t touch the soup. Straining the vegetables out is kind of a big pain in the butt (and only a mother would go through this much trouble to keep her children happy and content). Take the chicken out, and place it on a plate to cool. And then with a big colander, and an even bigger bowl under, pour the remaining soup through the colander. The broth will collect in the bowl. After rinsing out any residual debris from the pot, pour the broth back into the pot, place it back on the stove, over high heat. This will bring the broth to a boil. Add your noodles.
It may not look like the quantity of noodles are enough, but they have a tendency to expand, and absorb a good amount of the broth. And then there will not be enough broth for everyone, especially if some of the people in your family take all the broth for themselves and everyone else is left to eat just chicken and noodles.
Allow the broth with noodles to cook for about 10-12 minutes. You don’t want to overcook the noodles. While the noodles are cooking, remove the meat from the chicken bones. I usually just use the breast meat. This can be chopped into smaller pieces and returned to the soup. If it seems like there is a ton of chicken meat, and you don’t want to put it all into the soup, it can be used to make chicken salad. Yumm.
Taste the soup after the noodles have cooked. You can add more salt, to flavor. Also add more pepper, if you want a little kick to your soup. Do not add the salt prior to cooking the noodles in the broth, because as I said before, the noodles absorb a large quantity of the broth, and then you will be left with an overwhelmingly salty soup.
Your soup should be ready to eat. Serve with fresh French Bread and butter. For dessert offer sliced fresh apples, or a homemade fruit salad (for additional Vitamin C).
Tidy up the kitchen while the soup is warming, so you don’t have much to clean after you have eaten. Trust me on this one. The soup will make you souper (hee-hee) sleepy, and despite having taken a nap while it was cooking, you will want to retire bed shortly after consuming it. Go with it, do not fight the need to sleep. It is your body telling you it is time to repair.