There’s nothing better on a cold winter day than a nice hot bowl of chicken soup. It’s mom’s #1 go-to when you have a nasty cold, is awesome with a couple grilled cheese sammiches, and there’s no more popular healthy comfort food. You can eat it right out of the can if you want to, but there is nothing better than the homemade variety. Here’s my personal recipe, with specific Marty-style directions, on how to make this family favorite.
The first ingredient of this popular favorite is the chicken, of course. Unless you’re a master with a knife, I suggest buying the free cuts strips of white breast meat. One, greasy dark meat has NO place in homemade chicken soup, and the less cutting you have to do the better. Especially when you’re a blind man with a knife and enjoy keeping five fingers on each of your hands.
If you’ve never cut raw chicken with a knife, take my advice, a machete works best. That is unless you like sawing at those little tough strings of fat which run along every single freaking chicken strip. What a freaking pain in the ass! Take that freaking battle-ax of a knife to it to eliminate this problem. You want to cube the chicken into small pieces, but not so small that they shrink to pretty much squat in your soup when they’re cooked.
Yes, you do have the option of pre-cooking your chicken before cutting it, as it is much more agreeable with your slicing and dicing then. But who has that kind of time to waste? Besides, by cooking your chicken in the soup with the rest of the ingredients, it spreads and shares the flavor better. And don’t even THINK about using that pre-cooked, canned crap they call chicken. You know the abomination I’m talking about, right alongside the cans of tuna at the grocery store. These were designed, not only for the lazy cook who hates fresh meat but for people with no soul.
Anyway, after chopping your chicken into submission, set it aside for the moment while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. The Center for Disease Control, the FDA, and the Surgeon General would probably advise you to put the chicken back in your refrigerator to prevent the possibility the salmonella, but what fun is cooking without a little risk? Our bodies are full of bacteria. What will a little more hurt, right?
Next, it’s time to choose and chop up our veggies. Yes, even Marty eats a veggie here and there. Don’t spread the world and ruin my reputation as a fat ass though. My personal suggestion for good veggies to put into your soup are carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes. It’s your soup though, so throw whatever your favorites are into the mix. Just make sure to chop them up nicely. Tossing in an entire butternut squash may be an intriguing idea, but results are most likely not going to be favorable if you toss that sucker in there whole.
Now it’s time to decide on a broth base for your soup. The most typical ones used for chicken soup are plain old chicken broth, chicken stock or cream of chicken soup. Hell, some people use a combination of bases. There’s nothing wrong with a little creativity, right? Throw some cream of celery or mushroom in there or some vegetable soup broth. I’d forego getting too wild by dumping tomato soup, clam chowder, or canned chili in there though. We’re adventurous, not freaking animals. BLECK!
Now it’s time to spice it up a bit. I’ll admit, I myself tend to go a bit light and uncreative with my spices. Some salt, some pepper, maybe a little celery seed, garlic powder, or onion powder. Feel free to be as creative as you like though. This being said, only add a little at a time, sampling the results as you go. You can always add more spice, you can’t remove it once it’s in there. And when I say be creative, let’s also keep common sense about us. Nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, powdered cocoa and candy sprinkles might work well when making a pie, cake or confection. Results may vary if you add them to your soup.
So, once you’ve gotten your chicken and veggies all cut, your broth base and spices all picked out, it’s time to dump them all into your slow cooker and mix em’ all up. Some people will tell you the best soup is made on your cooktop at a medium low heat. These people would be wrong. The true trick to good soup is to retain all the flavor of its ingredients, not let them all escape in the steam from the pot. Sure, you could argue that a pot lid will do this just as well as the slow cooker’s lid. And you’d be right.
The difference is, if you’re cooking in a slow cooker, it cooks from the bottom and sides evenly. You rarely if ever have to take off the lid to stir and mix the soup. Therefore, little to none of the flavor is lost. If you rarely if ever take the lid off a pan on the oven to stir it, you’re going to end up with a fair amount of your soup burnt to the bottom of the pot. You’ll have to take that lid off a lot more often to stir your mix, losing that tastiness. Sure, you can cook your soup at a higher temperature this way and prepare it faster, but faster rarely means better. Just ask your girlfriend. Put it in the crockpot and let it cook slowly all day. You’ll thank me. Plus, it will give you time for the hardest and most hair-pulling part of homemade soup; Making the noodles.
Now, I’ll admit. This is the one area where I DO usually cheat and used processed noodles. I usually use the frozen egg noodles you find in the freezer section of your store, or the thin Kluski noodles your Aunt tried to pass off as homemade noodles at Thanksgiving that one year. The Thanksgiving we all will never let her live down…lol. Whatever you do, do NOT be a total slug and use the generic, bagged, dry egg noodles in the pasta section of your grocery store. These sad, pathetic, tasteless abominations have no place in a good homemade soup. What you SHOULD do is make them from scratch.
For a recipe with 3-4 simple ingredients, homemade noodles can be a real pain in the ass, even if they are the most delicious thing in the Milky Way Galaxy. For all intents and purposes, all your doing is mixing flour, eggs, salt, and Cream of tartar into a workable consistency. Sounds simple, right? Ummmm….nope. First of all, it takes a team of a master chef, a nuclear physicist, rocket scientist, and an Almighty Deity to get that mix right. It’s a constant battle between dough that is too wet, too sticky, or too dry. Better cooks than I have cried and gone mad at trying to master this tricky balance.
And then, after hours of playing with the dough, you suddenly think you have it! You can handle the dough without it sticking to your hands, yet it’s not so dry that it’s crumbling to bits. So you begin to roll it flat with your rolling pin. And guess what? All that moisture and stickiness was hiding INSIDE the dough. It’s clinging to your rolling pin and the surface you’re rolling it on like a drowning man to his airplane seat cushion. It doesn’t matter how much flour you have covered your hands or the surface with. You’re going to need a lot more flour, a blowtorch, and a crowbar to get it unstuck. So you add more flour to the mix AGAIN and pray it isn’t too much. It is, so you add some water or another egg to the mix.
Finally, it’s perfect. With all your additions, you now have enough noodle dough to feed the homeless into the next century, but it’s perfect. You roll it out paper thin, cut it into paper strips, and it’s just in time to add them to your soup, which has been simmering for 7 and a half hours now. Note, regardless if you’ve managed to somehow get your noodles done before this time, do not add them to your soup any earlier than half an hour before it’s done. Take it from one who found out the hard way.
I once tried to add the noodles into the soup hours before it was done. My theory? The noodles would have more time to absorb all the wonderful flavors of the soup and be one step below orgasmic in taste. WRONG! If you boil something with a flour base for too long one of two things happen. It either hardens giving you super chewy tasteless noodles, or it pretty much breaks down into next to nothing. Neither result is conducive to the taste of your soup, or the hours you spent preparing those damn noodles.
Finally, at around the 8-hour mark, your soup is done. Or at least should be. The easiest test is to try one of the carrots. They are the densest ingredient in your soup and will take the longest to soften. If they pretty much melt in your mouth, the rest of the soup will be perfectly cooked. Unless you did add that whole butternut squash I suggested against earlier.
So, is there anything different you do when making your perfect, homemade chicken soup? Any secret ingredient that makes it super scrumptious? Some pagan dance which satisfies the noodle gods? Let me know in the comments section below.