We have been back home nearly a week after visiting our family in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are still recovering from a “cold” (could it be the plague or whooping cough??) that we got from our infant grandson on the Monday before Thanksgiving. He was quite ill for three days and then recovered to his usual bouncy self. Since then, he seems to have forgotten anything about the illness. In the meantime, grandparents are dosing up with various remedies and stoking up the nebulizer at night. Ah, there is a resilience of youth that seems to have left me.
Over the last several weeks, Sarah has been experimenting with dumplings. Of course, that means she has made the classic, chicken and dumplings. It occurred to her on our last night in San Francisco that chicken and dumplings might be therapeutic. There is the belief in more than one society that chicken soup, especially the broth, can cure any cold. There is even some limited scientific evidence that that might be so. We were not about to turn down free medical treatment. Sarah made a delicious version of chicken and dumplings, and we felt better. But the cure did not last.
That made me think that maybe a repeat dose at home might do the trick, so I made a batch of chicken soup. Instead of dumplings, though, I decided to use home-made noodles as the starch. The soup was tasty even though the noodles were a little heavy. As to the therapeutic powers, we still have the “cold” (could it be the plague or whooping cough?)
There are three elements to the usual bowl of chicken soup:
First, the chicken. Most recipes call for a whole chicken. After boiling, the meat is removed from the carcass and finely shredded. Since there would only be two of us for the therapy, a whole chicken would be way too much, so I went with four chicken thighs.
Second, the broth. If you are a serious cook, you will make a rich stock from the boiling chicken and aromatic vegetables. For me, that always results in a watery broth that begs to be reduced and flavored. Alternatively, you can use packaged stock. Some cooks sniff at that approach as the commercial stuff contains lots of additives. Read the label, and you will find things like “chicken flavor”, salt, dextrose, celery juice concentrate, carrot juice concentrate, and yeast extract. Actually, the yeast extract may not be all that bad as it adds to the umami flavoring and richness of the stock. My preferred alternative is to use commercial stock in which to boil the chicken and aromatic vegetables. That has the pleasant result of yielding a rich, well-flavored stock. Then you use that for your soup.
Third, the starch. There are several good choices, matzoh balls, kreplach, dumplings, spaetzle, and packaged noodles among them. I went with homemade noodles as I have recently been trying to perfect what seems like an impossibly simple but confounding recipe. I rolled the dough as thinly as I could, but that was not enough. You need strong arms and determination. When you think the dough has been rolled thin enough, roll it out some more. Even better, use a pasta machine and work through the settings to the thinnest or next-to-thinnest setting.
Here’s my effort at homemade chicken noodle soup:
- 48 ounces packaged chicken stock
- 4 chicken thighs, skin on
- ½ large yellow onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 ribs celery
- 2 cloves onion
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning. More if you prefer
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 crimini mushrooms, chopped coarsely
- 2 scallions, including the green tops, sliced
- In a soup pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken, the half onion, one of the carrots, one rib of celery and the remaining ingredients. Return to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken thighs are cooked. Add additional water if needed.
- Remove the chicken thighs to a plate, and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and cut the meat from the bones, shredding the meat to the size you prefer. Set aside.
- Remove the vegetables and strain the broth through a fine sieve. Wipe the pot clean, and return the broth to the pot. Bring to the boil.
- Peel the remaining carrot and slice thinly into rounds. Slice the remaining celery stalk into ¼ inch slices.
- Add the mushrooms, scallions, celery, and shredded chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, stir in the dried noodles, return the soup to the boil for an additional 10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked and tender.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons basking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- ½ cup whole milk
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together
- Beat the egg lightly and stir in the milk
- While stirring continuously, add the egg and milk mixture slowly to the dry mixture. You should have a smooth but stiff batter.
- By teaspoonfuls, drop the batter into boiling soup. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 4-8 tablespoons water
- On a clean, dry work surface, make a mound of the flour. With your fingers, form a well in the middle of the flour that is big enough to hold the eggs.
- Break the eggs into the well. Add one tablespoon of water. With a dinner fork, lightly beat the eggs, and then begin to pull the flour gradually into the well.
- Continue to mix the eggs with more of the flour. Add another tablespoon of water. The dough should be well mixed and begin to hold together. If the mixture is too dry, add more water by a few drops at a time. The finished dough should be smooth and hold together, but should not have any stickiness. Knead for a few minutes with your hands until the dough is smooth. Cover with a bowl or dust lightly with flour and wrap with plastic wrap. Let relax for 30 minutes.
- When you are ready to roll out the noodles, cut the ball of dough into fourths, working with only one part at a time and covering the remaining pieces to prevent them from drying out.
- Shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Then using a sturdy rolling pin, roll the dough to the desired thickness – the thinner the better. Dust very lightly with flour and fold the dough over on itself so that you have a long roll with four layers. With a sharp knife, cut the roll into noodles of the desired width.
- Repeat the process with the remaining three pieces of dough.
- Dry the noodles for 20 – 30 minutes. Then add to the boiling soup and cook until the noodles have puffed up and cooked through. It should not take as long as with packaged dry noodles.