Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Near as good

My mom is infamous for her ability to stir up trouble. Sometimes it's that devilish, fun kind of mischief: smoking cigars with the groomsmen at a wedding, or with the piano player late in the evening at her favorite bar. The kind of mischief that once made Dad-- when I asked him if he was aware of something outrageously silly that his wife did -- respond in a non-plussed, not-at-all-surprised manner: "Well, I didn't know what was going on, but I've been around your mother a little bit."

Sometimes when she stirs things up, it's because she means business. Like if you need to fight with the cable company, she is a good person to consult on strategies. Should you need to return something without a receipt, well, she is your woman.

So last Saturday, as we were sitting in Sister's kitchen eating delicious homemade chicken noodle soup, I mentioned that I'd like to make a batch of the soup, too, to enjoy at home. Mom's response, muttered just to get a rise out of me: "You could make some of this soup, but it wouldn't be near as good as your sister's." Hunched over her bowl, gripping her spoon, grinning with her mouth full, glancing sideways in a trouble-making fashion, she was gleefully waiting for me to protest. Sister stood smugly by the refrigerator, lording over her superior soup. I gently reminded the two clowns who in the family has the cooking blog.

Setting aside the fact that Sister's soup was phenomenally good and absolutely perfect for a fall evening, I was compelled to cook up a batch at home, just to prove my mischievous relatives wrong. But you know what? I will not stoop to their level. Sister's soup and my soup are equally tasty. We playfully compete with each other a lot of the time; however, the battle of homemade chicken noodle soup is a draw.

Well, I call it a draw. Mom hasn't tasted my version yet.

The recipe comes from Emeril Lagasse. Though I appreciate Emeril -- he seems to be a very nice man and a talented chef -- I have never been a huge fan of his shows. Regardless, this simple soup recipe is just perfect. It allows you to get away with using store-bought stock, thereby drastically reducing the cooking time, but still allows you to inject plenty of home-cooked flavor into the soup thanks to the hour-long poaching of chicken with various aromatics. (Of course you could use your own homemade stock, which would be superior, but store-bought stock will work wonderfully, too. But make sure you buy stock, not broth. Stock's depth of flavor is far superior to comparatively watery broth.) The result is a flavorful, complex but not at all salty, clear beautiful chicken noodle soup that you can make and enjoy on a week night -- when time is often limited and long-cooking soups aren't exactly practical.

Mom, I suppose it's your turn. How will your chicken noodle soup turn out? Probably not near as good as your daughters'.


Adapted from Emeril Lagasse's recipe

Though I cook the stock with both white and dark meat chicken, I only shred the chicken breasts to add back into the soup. I don't care for dark meat, but I do appreciate the flavor that the bones bring to the party. By all means, if you like dark meat, shred it, too, and add it back into the soup. Otherwise...teeny bits of the poached thighs and legs make wonderful doggie snacks.

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 1/2 lb. chicken thighs

1 lb. chicken legs

1 quart chicken stock (homemade or store-bought)

2 quarts water

2 large onions, quartered

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

6-8 sprigs fresh thyme

10 fresh parsley stems

1 bay leaf

2 T. unsalted butter

3/4 c. onion, diced

1/2 c. carrots, diced

3/4 c. celery, diced (leafy tops included)

2 1/4 t. kosher salt

1 t. freshly-cracked black pepper

8 oz. whole-wheat angel hair pasta, broken into one- or two-inch pieces

1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

Place the chicken in a large stockpot or Dutch oven and cover with the chicken stock/broth and water. Add the onion quarters, roughly chopped carrot and celery, thyme, parsley stems and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, until the chicken is falling off the bone.

Using tongs, remove the chicken from the broth and set aside until cool enough to handle. Strain the broth through a fine wire-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth, set over a large bowl or pot, to separate the stock from the vegetables. Reserve the stock; discard the vegetables.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Discard the bones, skin and fat. Set the shredded chicken aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat in the same stock pot that you used to boil the chicken. (It's especially yummy to capture some of the little browned bits that remain in the pot after you strain the broth.) Add the diced onion, carrot and celery and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken. Add the reserved chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat.

Season the soup with salt and pepper. Add the angel hair pasta and simmer until the pasta is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.


Unknown said...

Your cooking sucks shit!

Unknown said...


Dianne said...

My goodness. And here I was, all excited that you commented.