I don’t remember my mom making chicken noodle soup as a kid, as comforting as it is to me. I remember her making “vegetable soup”, which curiously enough was made with big chunks of beef…Oh, OK. Maybe she called it “beef vegetable”. Either way, it wasn’t one of my favorites (sorry, Mom). Might have been those floating lima beans. Just sayin’.
I do remember Campbell’s Chicken ‘n Stars for lunch. I think my mom would actually split a can 4 ways, for us (my brother and me) and the Rehak kids, Joey and Jennifer. After a morning of racing our big wheels down the Rehak’s hilly driveway (the center point of our cul-de-sac), picking poisonous berries off bushes and mashing them up into a stew (my bright idea), and chasing “Fang”, a pint-sized white poodle who pranced around the neighborhood with bright red-painted nails and an attitude, we would really work up an appetite for a ¼ of a can of soup. OK, so there may have been a grilled cheese sandwich split 4 ways, too. It was the 70′s!
Maybe it’s those stars, not sure, but it always makes me feel good when I
open see a can of that stuff.
I told you a little bit about Poland in my last post on Brussels sprouts so you may already know that I spent almost 5 years of my life there, and I really feel that it was there that my soup-making evolved.
Poland is cold. And I’m from Chicago, so that’s saying something. And it’s gray at lot of the time, which makes the cold feel even colder. Needless to say, I made a lot of soup. At my cute little corner vegetable market in Plac Unii Lubelskiej at the north end of ulica Chocimska (our street), they had these great little bundles of vegetables to make soup with. If I’m remembering correctly, there were a few very large carrots, celery, a few leeks and some white turnips.
I just went with it. Chopped it all up, threw it into a pot with a whole chicken and let it boil. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was in Poland for God’s sake, it was cold and we needed a hot meal. It was back to the basics. You buy bread, vegetables and meat. You buy milk, butter and oil. Now, cook!
Yes, you could get things like homemade pierogi on every corner and they were absolutely delicious. Pierogi are stuffed dumplings, sort of like ravioli, if you don’t know.
I remember once I was at Supersam, our grocery store around the corner, and I picked up some homemade pierogi, as I had done many times before. My way of ordering pierogi at the grocery store was to point, say a number and “prosze” (PRO-SHA), “please”. I had no way of knowing exactly what they were stuffed with, because there were a million varieties of pierogi, stuffed with cheese, veggies, potatoes, meat or all of the above. Doesn’t matter, they we are always delicious.
We were having friends over for dinner (you know where this is going), so I wanted to make sure everything was great. I sautéed the pierogi in a pan with oil and some onions until they looked crispy and perfect. I served them with sour cream, the way I love them. We cut into our first bites and discovered (to my horror) that they were filled with sugary blueberries. Not a great mix with onions and sour cream.
Who ever heard of blueberry pierogi? 38 million Poles, apparently, but not me. Oh well, dinner was a bust but we all had a laugh and then ordered a pizza.
Back to soup.
I learned in Warsaw, after making chicken soup 1000 times, that my very best chicken soup was made when I used the whole chicken. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Bones, bones, bones. That’s where the flavor is. And skin (ahem), yes I said it.
What I do is boil a whole fresh chicken, skin and all, in a very large pot of water to get the base or “stock” going. Wash it, and put it in a large stock pot and cover it with water. Put the fire on HIGH, cut an onion in ½ and throw that in, throw in a bay leaf and a few pieces of celery, add some salt and pepper. Let it cook.
The thing with soup is that it needs time. The flavor comes out as it sits and simmers. If you don’t have a few hours to let your finished soup simmer (or to rest in the fridge overnight), you can add (2) 14.5 oz. cans of chicken stock now to boost the flavor. I usually do this (and did this time) because we want to eat it right away. But if you have the time, you really don’t need the extra stock.
There really is a whole chicken hiding inside that pot above. When it comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer. Let this cook until the chicken is cooked through (40 mins?) What I do is check it with a sharp knife by cutting it close to the bone. If all the pink is gone, the meat is done.
Next remove the entire chicken to a platter. Turn the fire off and strain the stock, discarding the vegetables and any pieces of bone or skin. Add the stock back into the pot and remove any fat from the top with a spoon, as much as you can anyway. Add some salt and pepper.
While the chicken is cooling, I sauté a mirepoix (I love that word) of carrots, onions and celery in a tbsp of olive oil. I usually use 1 whole white onion, about 3 or 4 large carrots and a couple of pieces of celery. I cut up the celery leaves, too. Why not? When it softens, I add this to the stockpot.
When the chicken cools down enough to handle it, it’s time to remove the skin and all of the meat from the bones. Discard the skin and bones. Some people (my daughter being one of you) may not like the whole bone-thing.
That’s really too bad. You have to get over that! If you’re going to eat meat, I say just commit to bones and all.
I remember once when I was about 12 or 13, I was at my friend Peggy’s house for dinner. She has a big family and we were eating chicken (on the bone). Apparently I was so involved with my chicken leg that I gnawed the bone clean. It was literally white and I was still going at it. Well, her older brother Timmy (who I thought was cute) noticed this and announced it to the entire table, which was beyond embarrassing for a 12 year old girl. I must have turned 3 shades of red! Peggy and I still crack up over that one. I kind of get lost in my food, what can I say?
Anyway, I like to shred the chicken, rather than cutting it into chunks. I like the texture of it ripped apart by hand instead of cut-up chicken cubes. I throw the shredded chicken back into the stockpot, with a few big handfuls of fresh, chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley. Taste and maybe add some more salt and pepper.
That’s about it. Let it cook on a simmer for a long as you can. Let’s say at least an hour.
I always make chicken noodle soup with egg noodles. Those are the thin curly noodles that are perfect with chicken soup. But this time I made homemade dumplings, inspired by my friend Holly. They are Art Smith’s recipe and she raves about them. They were so yummy! And simple to make. It’s 1 1/2 cups of flour, 2 tbsp Canola oil, 1 cup of water, salt and pepper. Put everything except water in a standing mixer with paddle attachment. Mix on low. Gradually add a little water at a time until a stiff dough is formed. (I only used a few tbsp not a whole cup). If you’ve added too much water, add a little more flour. The dough should not be sticky. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly. Roll out to 1/4″ thick and cut into strips.
They were fun and easy to make while the soup cooks. Hadley got a little creative with ours.
I guess I pretty much gave you the entire recipe already. What else do I need to tell you? I use bunchs of Italian flat-leaf parsley because I love it. I throw this in at the end and it makes it nice and fresh.
Also, don’t cook the dumplings (or egg noodles) directly in the soup. Boil a separate pot of water and keep them separate from the soup. I don’t like to leave noodles in soup because they get soggy and mushy. I add the noodles to individual bowls and cover them with soup.
This soup is even better the next day. Overnight the fat in the soup with rise to the top and harden, so you’ll have to skim it off and discard that in the morning.
Think of this soup as a big hug from me! Enjoy.
*******IMPORTANT NOTE JUST ADDED 4/13******************
OK, I just got a call on the littleclove hotline from Holly in a panic! She’s calling this a littleclove emergency!
She just finished reading the above post from yesterday and told me to stop the presses! Alert the media! A change to the recipe needs to be made stat!
The correction is that you absolutely MUST put the dumplings directly into the soup. Do not cook them in a separate sauce pan as I had mislead you to do! You want the soup to flavor the dumplings as they cook!
Art Smith says: “Slide the strips into the simmering soup, placing them next to each other without stacking or crowding. Cover tightly and reduce heat to low. Simmer until dumplings are cooked through and tender, about 10 mins. Sprinkle the dumplings with fresh parsley. Serve directly from the pot, breaking up the dumplings as needed.”
There you have it. Thank you, Art. Thank you, Holly. You saved the day……and our dumplings.