A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine went through a particularly hard week. Thoughts and feelings welled up inside me, a heavy weight on my heart wondering how I could possibly bring even the smallest bit of relief. These times cry for calls, notes or gifts, but I usually end up in the kitchen, a place where I can chop, knead and stir as much love as I can into some kind of edible goodness.
With the first few cool nights behind us, I knew I wanted to make my friend some soup. There is something about soup that is nourishing to the core. With summer vegetables still rolling in, this chicken noodle soup reaches new heights with the addition of corn and chile.
You can make this recipe your own by adding other vegetables and herbs. If you still have access to basil, dill or sage, this would be a great time to use it with the finishing greens at the end. If you want to omit the noodles, add diced sweet or Yukon gold potatoes instead. Other veggies that can be easily incorporated are parsnips, squash, celery root and peas.
There are so many paths you can take to reach the end result of this delicious soup, but keep this in mind: The significance of a gift like this doesn’t lessen if you use store-bought broth and noodles, so make it work for you. This is a big batch of soup, leaving you plenty to eat, freeze and share.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes: 6-7 quarts; total time: around 3 hours
For the broth:
1 whole roasted chicken or raw chicken, cut into pieces, with skin and bones intact
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon dried or a few sprigs of fresh thyme
A few sprigs of fresh lavender (optional)
Splash of apple cider vinegar
10 cups cold water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Carrot ends and peels
Cobs from the corn, broken in half
Prep for the soup:
2 yellow onions, diced
4-7 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cobs of sweet corn
3-5 stalks of celery, diced, inner leaves reserved
4-6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Fire-roasted green chiles, diced (optional)
2 teaspoons mild chile powder
For the noodles (optional)
½ pound dried noodles, OR
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon water (if needed)
To finish the soup:
2 tablespoons butter
Bowl of diced veggies
Cooked chicken pieces
Reserved celery leaves, rough chopped
3 scallions, sliced
4 cups of your favorite dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, broccoli leaves, chard, etc.)
Preparation: Start by making the broth and preparing the vegetables. In a large soup pot, add the chicken pieces, garlic, thyme, lavender, apple cider vinegar, cold water and salt. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then lower heat to keep a gentle simmer for an hour. Now is the time to prep the vegetables. In a large bowl, add the diced onions, sliced carrots, corn kernels, celery, chiles and chile powder. Cover this and refrigerate until ready to finish the soup. As you are cutting the veggies, save your inner onion peels, carrot ends and peels, celery ends and put them into the broth pot simmering on the stove. Once the broth has simmered for around an hour, transfer the large chicken pieces to a large bowl and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Once the meat is cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bones and reserve for the soup.
Prepare the noodles: If you’re using store-bought dried noodles, boil them in a separate pot of salted water until just tender and strain. If you’re using fresh noodles from the store, you don’t need to cook them ahead of time, they can be added to the soup later.
If you are making your own noodles, let’s do it! Pour flour and salt in a large, dry bowl in a mound (you could also do this directly on a clean counter). Using your hand, make a well in the center of the mound exposing the surface of the bowl with the flour all around. Add the eggs and extra virgin olive oil to the well and whisk with a fork, gradually incorporating more flour into the center of the well until it has formed a cohesive ball. If the dough is too dry, add a little bit of water, a tablespoon at a time. Now transfer this ball of dough to a clean counter sprinkled with flour and knead by hand for 15 minutes or until the dough feels smooth (free arm workout included!). Wrap dough in plastic wrap and rest for 15 minutes. Generously sprinkle the counter with more flour and roll out the dough with a rolling pin as thin as you feel like, but not more than ¼-inch in thickness. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into strips around the width of fettuccine or even a little wider. Then cut these long strands across into more bite-sized pieces, 1-2 inches. Gently toss them together with some flour and transfer them to a sheet tray and into the fridge. Note: You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough and a pasta rolling machine.
To make the soup: With a ladle, skim off the excess chicken fat sitting atop your chicken broth. Don’t worry about removing all the fat, a little left behind is going to add wonderful texture to the soup. In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add the butter and bowl of veggies from the fridge. Let cook a few minutes, then add the cooked chicken pieces and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Let cook around a half-hour or until all the veggies are tender. Check seasoning and add salt, pepper and/or more chile powder to taste.
Right before serving, add noodles and cook for a minute or so. Then add celery leaves, scallions, dark leafy greens and let cook until melted into the soup a couple minutes more. Serve immediately.