Along with a lot of my friends, I’ve been sick for over 2 months. Chest cold, walking pneumonia, massive congestion in my head….and all this never-ending rain, while certainly very helpful to the State of California (don’t worry, I’m not at all knocking the rain!) hasn’t helped me get better. So, when I’m feeling low, I want to eat nourishing things that will help me feel better. There is a reason that chicken soup is at the top of my list.
Plenty of lean protein, warm broth, and veggies make this a healthy meal whether you are sick or well. You can add the noodles, or use cooked rice instead, or cut out the carbs and add other veggies to the soup, like diced yams, chopped Yukon gold potatoes, or broccoli florets.
When I have the time, or I’ve stocked my freezer well, I prefer using homemade chicken stock because it adds the best flavor to the soup. If you are just trying to get this soup on the table—because it’s a weeknight or your entire family has come down with the flu—you can certainly use a good-quality boxed broth. I’d recommend a low-sodium version, preferably organic. And be sure to read the label, as many of them contain hidden sugar and other additives and preservatives.
Depending on your preference, you can use either chicken breast or thighs. I prefer chicken breast in this particular soup (although I’ll almost always choose thighs for other stews or curries), but be sure not to overcook it or it will turn dry and rubbery. Cooking it on the bone adds both flavor and tenderness, so I also highly recommend sticking to that rather than choosing boneless. I remove the skin to avoid excess fat in the soup, but if you like that, by all means, leave it on.
Serve up big steaming bowls of this soup just like it is, or accompany it with crusty sourdough, levain or multigrain bread or even some great multigrain or whole wheat crackers.
Recipe: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes about 8 servings
- About 8 cups homemade chicken stock
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large leek, trimmed, quartered and chopped
- 2 lbs skinless, bone-in chicken breasts or thighs
- Kosher salt
- About 6 oz wide egg noodles
- Fresh, flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
- In a soup pot or large saucepan, add the chicken stock, carrots, celery, leeks, chicken, and salt to taste (taste the stock before adding to the pot and before you season to make sure you don’t oversalt it). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer very very gently, until the chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 30 minutes.
- Using tongs, remove the chicken to a cutting board, leaving the broth and veggies simmering gently on the stovetop. Add as soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the bones, gristle or any other yucky little bits. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the noodles, and cook just until al dente, according to package directions. (Alternatively, you can cook the pasta separately. While the soup is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.)
- Add the meat back to the pot of soup (along with the cooked pasta if you boiled it separately). If you want the soup to be a bit “soupier” add a little more broth to get to the consistency you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Simmer very gently just long enough to warm the chicken through.
- Ladle the hot soup into bowls, garnish with parsley and serve at once with plenty of crusty bread or crackers.
NOTE: If you want to store the soup, keep the noodles and soup separate and warm them up gently together when serving.