Ah, back to reality. (Small sigh, wry smile…) And back to cooking for the fam! Tonight, I’m making a typical make-your-own Wild Wednesday dish, in this case chicken noodle soup. The kids take theirs light on the chicken (and veggies), heavy on the noodle. We adults reverse the ratio. Either way, a good chicken stock makes the dish. I tried a new version (I made it yesterday, when I had time, vs. today, when I don’t), the Miss Edna Louis recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking. Result? Incredible, very rich and chicken-y, a perfect chicken soup base. Easy too (all you need is a good, heavy knife for hacking apart the chicken; recipe posted in comments, below).
For the veggies, I just saute a diced mixture of whatever sounds good, in a little butter. Tonight, for instance, I’m thinking mushrooms, garlic, leeks, okra, carrots, fennel. Other tasty options could include asparagus, celery, tomatoes, zucchini…you get the picture. For chicken, I pull apart a deli rotisserie chicken (the chicken from making stock is totally spent and flavorless). Canned (rinsed) navy or canellini beans can be a nice addition. Grated gruyere cheese is lovely too. For noodles, just plain ol’ egg noodles fit the bill. To assemble, I line it all up buffet style and everyone builds their own bowl. Few grinds of black pepper, crusty bread, perhaps a salad… Everyone’s happy, everyone’s full, good stuff.
Miss Lewis’s Very Rich Chicken Broth
Makes approximately 8 cups of very rich, intensely flavored broth
One 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 lb. chicken (I bought an already cut up fryer)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
4 Tbsp. butter
1 small inner stalk of celery, preferably with leaves
6 cups water
Rinse the chicken well, inside and out, and dry well with paper towels. Cut the chicken into two legs two thighs, two breast halves, two wings, plus the backbone and neck if included. With a cleaver or a stout knife, carefully whack each of the pieces into smaller pieces, of about 2 inches. Rub a little of the kosher salt into the cut surfaces of the chicken pieces, and set aside.
In a wide, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until hot and foaming. Add the chicken pieces, and stir well to coat with butter. Cook, stirring often, until the skin of the chicken is golden, but don’t let it brown. Reduce the heat to very low, add the celery, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Check every 5 minutes, and stir well. Within 20 minutes, the chicken should have released its essence, so that liquid comes up almost even with the top of the chicken pieces. Add the water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook slowly for 20 minutes, skimming often. Strain the broth, and discard the chicken pieces and celery (the chicken will have given up all of its flavor).
If not using immediately, cool the broth (uncovered) and refrigerate (covered). Once chilled, the solidified fat can be easily removed.