with Aromatic Vegetables—
Right now, what wouldn't you give for a steaming hot bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup? Whether it's because you've caught that nasty winter cold going around or have just come home from a frosty 50-mile bike ride, this clarifying and legendary cure-all is often just what they say the doctor would order. Especially this time of year...
"Chicken Noodle Soup", continued:
...Feeling the need myself the other day, I quickly pulled several containers of chicken stock and a bag of mirepoix out of our freezer. If you’re not familiar with the term, mirepoix is the sauteed flavor base of finely diced or sliced aromatic vegetables that so many dishes depend on. Those same onions, carrots, celery, garlic (and maybe some leeks or fennel) along with parsley, thyme and a bay leaf are also what we put raw into the pot when making stock. And chicken broth is what I consider the mother of all stocks, so, yes, I make and keep on hand a ready supply of both mirepoix and chicken stock.
So is it stock or broth? And what's the difference? Although often used interchangeably to refer to the flavorful liquid either vegetables and/or meaty things have been cooked in, the word "stock" seems to imply so much more. Besides describing a clear and aromatic soup and/or sauce base, “stock” can expand to include our ancestral origin, invested share, reserved supplies, grafted components, or repertoire of plays. Our life-supporting stock in trade. And I like thinking about what all those possibilities might hold in store for me. And you.
I realize it's ridiculous, but often when my pantry is the most completely well-stocked, I’m apt to feel reluctant to rob it of any of its riches. Thinking things like, “I ought to save that. What if my need is greater next time and I’ve already used it up?” A well-stocked pantry does indeed give me a sense of security, a feeling of having arrived, so I don’t want to backtrack or take a wrong turn. But life is full of unexpected turns, and the other day was a time when I was pathetically grateful I had prepped ahead for whatever might happen. Besides the everyday convenience and practicality of regularly stocking up, these ready foods can provide you with an immediate rescue mission. “This is what it’s here for,” I happily reminded myself, as I reached for the bag of egg noodles.
It was so effortless to get a big pot of brothy goodness going, and in a matter of moments, I got to sit down and sup it up. To feel that soothing noodley soup slide right down to nourish and warm me both inside and out. I had planned to be sorting through and re-organizing the decades worth of recipe files in my home office. To give my new year a fresh start. But instead I was handed chills, fever and a pantry epiphany. This is a good time to take stock. To recognize the value in our reserves. To make stock and stock up once again. It's the best way to keep taking care of ourselves and others. So we can have what we really need just when we might need it most.
Now let's make some soup!
Casual Recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup
a celery stalk
several cloves garlic
a bay leaf
fresh or dried thyme
chicken stock (preferably homemade) [about 8 cups]
egg noodles [2 handfuls]
salt & pepper
a head fennel
cooked chicken meat [a cup or two]
- In a large heavy pot saute all the vegetables, finely diced or sliced, in several tablespoons oil/butter over medium heat until sweet and tender.
- Stir in the garlic, pressed or pounded, bay leaf and thyme to briefly cook and evenly blend.
- Stir in the chicken stock and bring to the boil.
- Add the egg noodles and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil, cooking just until the egg noodles are tender but not mushy.
- Taste for seasoning, then stir in the optional chicken meat to heat through.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
and Play with:
Since it's such a main event here, make sure your chicken stock is genuinely flavorful and not too salty from the get-go.
Exact proportions are not important here, so adjust to suit your tastes and available ingredients. I sometimes embellish with several big handfuls of baby spinach leaves stirred in to wilt bright green at the end. In the summer I'd make that thinly sliced zucchini instead. This classic soup is also a good place to use up any leftover cooked chard, kale or cabbage you might have on hand; stir in at the end just to heat through. And you could also substitute rice or quinoa for the pasta; use 1/2-1 cup depending on how thick or brothy you want the soup to be.
Because it's so easy to do and saves time and energy later, whenever I'm making mirepoix for any dish, I multiply the amounts to create extra for other future uses. Remove and set that surplus aside to cool, then put 1/2-cup portions of it in individual bags or containers to freeze. Then in this recipe you could skip ahead to add it even still frozen to the chicken stock as it comes to the boil. [Use 1/2 - 1 cup cooked mirepoix for 8 cups stock.] Since all that's left is the noodles, you can see how quickly this would go together.
Wishing you health and happiness in this new year.
Bon Appetit! Kay