The Whole Shebang: Chicken Noodle Vegetable Soup

Iconic chicken noodle soup; I’ve enjoyed eating it since childhood, and now, after cooking it for decades, I relish it more. I’ve increased its tastiness, while at my fingertips I’ve learned skills to create a bright star of seasonal cooking. But, truthfully, like Jacque Pepin stated in a cooking video, he eats soup throughout the year, as I do.

I prefer chicken thighs to breasts, but use what you like. I use just a few chicken thighs, but too you can adjust the amount of ingredients for this soup. Jacquie Pepin’s wife use to say when Jacque cooked without an exact recipe that it would be know as The Fridge Soup. This was because the soup contained leftover bits of food from bins in his refrigerator; this way these foods would not be wasted.

My chicken soup version is a mixture of fresh ingredients, but leftovers play a role too. And too, I like to adjust the starch. I choose among barley, rice, noodles, matzoh balls, potatoes, orzo etc. I change it up depending on my mood and desire. Sometimes I use more than one of these.

INGREDIENTS Serves 8-10

2-3 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil, divided

1/3 cup of flour mixed generously with salt and pepper

4-6 chicken thighs, bone -in skin-on

4 large carrots, cut in chunks

2 stalks celery, cut in half inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

1 small red pepper, chopped (optional)

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 1 small can crushed tomatoes (optional)

16 cups water, more if needed

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups noodles – your choice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 32 oz. container vegetable stock or chicken broth

2-3 tsp chicken bouillon – Better Than Bouillon

1 5-8 oz. pkg fresh spinach

1-2 cups cooked vegetables, leftovers

1 can 15 oz. can of kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

2 bay leaves

1-2 tsp herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, dill

PROCESS

1 Pat dry the chicken pieces. Place in a sturdy plastic bag; Add the flour mixture. Shake well. Remove the chicken; shake off any access flour. Put aside. Add two tablespoons of oil to a large Dutch oven. Heat to medium-high. Add the chicken, do not overcrowd, even doing the process in two batches, if necessary. Brown the chicken on each side for about 4-5 minutes. Do not move the chicken initially, let it remain in one place for most of that time, but check maybe once to see t hat the chicken has not burned. turn down the heat if necessary to curb the browning. Remove to a papertowel covered plate. Set aside.

2 Add more oil if necessary to the now-empty pot. Check heat and keep at medium. Add the carrots; cook two minutes, add the celery and onions and red pepper if using. Cook and stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes as the vegetables soften and turn translucent. Add some salt and pepper. Toward t he end of the time add the garlic, turing the heat to low.

3 Once the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Do not toss the bones out. Add the bones and the chicken to the pot. Add the liquid, plus the container of vegetable or chicken stock. Bring everything to a boil, Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring now and then, for about 45 minutes-1 hour as all the ingredients blend and continue cooking. Add the bouillon too, the bay leaves, the can of beans, if using and the fresh or canned tomatoes. After 45 minutes add your choice of pasta., cooking until the pasta is at the consistency you like. Add the leftover cooked vegetables, and fresh spinach in the last 5-10 minutes. Remove the chicken bones and bay leaves. Add more liquid if needed. adjust seasoning for salt and pepper.

TIPS AND TWEAKS

  • Add a small can of refried beans which will help to thicken the soup. Add this after half an hour of cooking at step 3.
  • Good cooked vegetables to add: cauliflower, broccoli, string beans.
  • Add Bok Choy at step 2 when you saute the carrots, onions and celery.
  • Add cayenne pepper after 45 minutes at step 3 if you wish a spicer soup.
  • For a hightened umami flavor, add 2 teaspoons of worchestershire sauce or soy sauce in place of some of the salt.

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