You've got the sniffles. It's chilly outside. You want nothing more than to wrap yourself in a big ol' blanket and settle down with a mug of chicken noodle soup. Am I right? Then this is the recipe for you. It's miles better than anything from a box or a can, but isn't quite so laborious as starting with a whole chicken and making stock from scratch. It's the Goldilocks of chicken soups, and it's just right.
This shortcut chicken soup gives you real shreds of meaty chicken, and a broth with delicious extra richness. But it doesn't take the hours of a full old-fashioned chicken soup, where you use a whole chicken to make stock, then take the chicken apart piece by piece for the soup. It's a quicker version, yes, but one that stays true in spirit and taste to the most old-fashioned sort of homemade chicken soup. Brothy, golden, nourishing — this is real chicken soup — just a little bit faster.
I prefer using chicken thighs for this soup. Not only do thighs stay tender and delicious when simmered, but their natural richness makes the soup more substantial. Buy bone-in thighs if you can; the bones make the broth even better. (You can use chicken breasts if you like, though I still suggest using bone-in.)
Noodles in chicken noodle soup is a deeply personal matter. Some prefer swirly egg noodles like those pictured. Others insist linguini is the way to go. Still others like to break spaghetti into little matchsticks before cooking them. Use whichever noodle feels most comforting to you.
Even if you're not feeling under the weather, this is a very satisfying soup to make if you just want something cozy. It comes together in under an hour and makes the house smell fantastic.
How to Make Chicken Soup
What You Need
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 to 3 garlic cloves, to taste
1 1/2 pounds (about 6) chicken thighs, preferably bone-in
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 quarts chicken stock, store-bought or homemade
1/2 pound noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 to 3 teaspoons salt
6-quart Dutch oven or soup pot
1. Cook the Vegetables: Warm a teaspoon of oil over medium heat in the dutch oven or soup pot. Add the diced onions, celery, and carrots with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just start to soften, 3-5 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the garlic. Cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then stir the garlic into the vegetables.
2. Sear the Chicken: Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, but leave the bone in. (Boneless chicken thighs are also fine in this recipe, but the bones add richness to the broth.) Move the vegetables to the edges of the pan and warm the remaining teaspoon of oil in the middle of the pan. When hot, add the chicken thighs, fitting them into a single layer. It's ok if they are snug. Cook without moving for about 3 minutes, until the underside is seared golden. Flip the thighs and sear the other side until golden.
3. Add the Broth and Simmer: Add the bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the pot. Pour in one quart of the broth, reserving the remaining quart for later. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Shred the Chicken: Move the pot off the heat and transfer the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon. Use two forks to pull the meat apart into shreds (or chop into cubes). Remove and discard any bones. It's ok if the meat is still a little pink in the middle at this point.
5. Cook the Pasta: Bring a separate pot of water to a boil for the pasta. When boiling, salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is barely al dente and the drain. Alternatively: Add the second quart of broth to the soup, bring to a simmer, and cook the pasta in the soup itself.
6. Finish the Soup: Return the shredded chicken to the soup and bring to a simmer. If the chicken wasn't quite finished cooking, continue simmering until it has cooked through. Add the noodles to the soup. If a thinner broth is desired, add additional chicken broth. Remove the bay leaf, and taste the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and serve.
• Extra-Easy Chicken Noodle Soup: Substitute 3 cup pre-cooked shredded chicken or shredded supermarket rotisserie chicken for the chicken thighs in this recipe. Reduce simmering time to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked to taste.
• Long and Slow Chicken Noodle Soup: Want to make the real thing? OK! Simmer a whole chicken in water until the meat falls off the bones. Pull off the meat and return the bones to the pot with some vegetables to complete the chicken stock. The build your soup as above, using this fresh chicken stock and the reserved chicken meat.
• To Freeze Some the Soup: Remove the portion of soup to be frozen before adding the pasta. When reheating the soup, cook the pasta separately and add it to the individual bowls.
• Avoiding Mushy Noodles: The noodles will continue absorbing liquid from the leftover soup as it cools, gradually becoming softer and mushier. If you don't like mushy noodles in your leftover soup, keep the pasta and soup separate and add the pasta to bowls individually.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)