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A Cheater’s Chicken Soup

November 15, 2010

When I have the flu, the blues or both, I always turn to chicken soup. Sure, a can will do in a pinch, but nothing hits the spot like a big bowl of the homemade stuff, full of chunky vegetables, lots of herbs and plenty of chicken. So I decided to make some last week, for restorative purposes.

But well …. every single homemade chicken soup recipe I could initially find called for making my own stock. Simmering a whole chicken with carrots, celery, onions and herbs for more than an hour sounds like a great idea in theory, but a) an hour for stock + more for the actual soup is a lot of time after a long day, b) I didn’t have a soup pot big enough to hold a 4-pound chicken and more than 2 quarts of liquid, and c) I’m cooking for 2-3 here and most of those recipes had ridiculously high yields.

So instead, I decided to poach the chicken in stock and use that as my soup base. I used a combination of a poached chicken soup recipe from Food & Wine and a simple chicken noodle soup from Emeril as a guide for my own version: a cheater’s homemade chicken noodle soup. (And yes, the entire time I was cooking, I listened to this.)

– 1 small onion, chopped

– 1 large carrot, chopped

– 3 ribs celery, chopped

– 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced (about 1 cup)

– 2-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (three very large pieces)

– 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (you can also use stock)

– 7 cups water

– 3 springs fresh thyme

– 1 bay leaf

– 7 ounces rotelli (or any short pasta)

– salt and pepper, to taste

1) Drizzle the bottom of a large soup pot with olive oil. Add the onions, carrots and celery and a pinch of salt and cook until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.

2) Add the mushrooms and place the chicken on top of the vegetables. Pour in the broth and water so that the chicken is fully covered in liquid. Add the thyme, bay leaf and another hefty pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil.

3) Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10-12 minutes. Pull the chicken out and turn the heat up once again.

4) Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. The chicken may be slightly underdone in the center, but don’t worry — it will finish cooking in the soup later on.

5) When the soup is boiling once again, add the pasta. Cook for 11 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Add the chicken back in 3 minutes after adding the pasta.

6) Season the soup with salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish with a few tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley if desired.

The soup smelled amazing and in my opinion, tasted pretty darn good. Considering it took less than a half hour from start to finish (minus the chopping, but I’m very slow), it’s my go-to recipe for chicken soup — especially since it freezes very nicely.

And in what he assures me was a compliment, my cousin said, “wow, you made this? I thought it was Progresso.”

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