Monday, October 22, 2012

Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup

Sometimes the tastiest recipes take me by surprise. So it was with this chicken soup - it was thrown together almost as an afterthought after a full day of fall canning, but turned out to be the most delicious thing we made all day. In fact, I took the above picture of my bowl after I'd already started eating it - I had no intention of blogging this recipe. But when I took the first bite and realized that it was the most delicious chicken soup I'd ever had, I knew I had to get it on the blog - as much for your benefit as for mine, so we can recreate this recipe soon!

We made chicken soup because we had a chicken carcass available. We've done this before - no big deal. But this time was a little different, because the carcass was raw. Last week I made a recipe calling for bone-in chicken parts, so I bought a whole chicken and had Jeff cut it up into the pieces we wanted. His butchery skills (as he admitted at the time) leave something to be desired, so we ended up with a lot of meat left on the carcass. Soup was the perfect solution - we could get all of the flavorful goodness out of the bones and have some meat to add to the soup. Brilliant!

In practice, once I began the recipe, I was skeptical. Raw chicken grosses me out. Raw chicken stewing in its own juices sounds like a terrible idea. I added everything to the pot, turned up the heat, and wondered if we'd end our evening by ordering take-out. There was no way I was going to eat that. Fast forward two hours, though, and the chicken had cooked through and created a rich, gorgeous stock. A delicious, homey aroma wafted around our house as the stock simmered. My attitude changed. The raw chicken was able to poach in its own juices and fats, making the meat tender and moist. I don't think a pre-cooked chicken could achieve this same texture and flavor. Clearly, what I initially thought was a bad idea was really the best idea ever!

The final product is worth the long wait. Trust me. This is no over-salted Campbell's creation - this is real soup, homemade and unprocessed, perfect for a lazy, chilly weekend afternoon.

Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup
Adapted from a recipe.

1 raw chicken carcass, preferably with some meat still attached
8 c water
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 onion, quartered and unpeeled
6 carrots - 2 roughly chopped and 4 sliced into small half-moons
2 celery stalks - 1 roughly chopped, with leaves, and 1 sliced
2-3 sprigs fresh dill
2 handfuls egg noodles
2 tbsp parsley, chopped

Place chicken carcass, salt, pepper, onion, 2 roughly chopped carrots, 1 celery stalk (with all leaves) and dill in a large Dutch oven. Pour water over them (we cut the carcass into pieces so that the water would mostly cover it - I'm not sure how much this matters, though, as long as the pot is covered). Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for at least two hours.

When the stock is ready, pour the entire mixture through a cheese cloth or wire mesh strainer, reserving the liquid (I skimmed off about half of the fat that rose to the top at this point). Remove the chicken bones and pick the meat off of them, reserving it for later. (Eat the delicious mushy carrots.) Discard the remaining solids (chicken bones, soggy celery, onions, dill).

Add the remaining sliced carrots and celery and chicken stock to the pot. Add 2-3 more cups of water or other stock, if necessary (we neglected to cover the stock pot the whole time, so ours reduced down a lot more than we wanted - we had less than half the liquid we had started with, which wasn't enough for the rest of the soup, so we added liquid - half water, half veggie stock - to get it back up over the original mark). Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer 30 minutes. Taste and re-season, if necessary. Add uncooked egg noodles and cooked chicken, simmering until egg noodles are cooked through (our noodles took 12-14 minutes). Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

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