Chicken Noodle Soup — Down-Home Comfort

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There’s no chance “gourmet” canned chicken noodle soups can match the long-cooked goodness of chicken noodle soup with fresh ingredients.

Chicken Noodle Soup

This may seem like an odd sort of down-home comfort-food recipe to share with you at this time of year, but if you think about it, it’s actually the perfect time for a bowl of chicken noodle soup. After rushing around for the past month dealing with first Thanksgiving and then the holidays, it’s easy to be worn down and feeling poorly.

It’s also easy to overindulge at holiday parties and eat lots of rich foods. And just around the corner are the New Year’s Eve festivities with bubbly and more indulgence, and New Year’s Day gatherings. In fact, a few years ago Mama had a terrible cold on Christmas Eve. Instead of roast goose or prime rib we all enjoyed humble, soothing, nourishing chicken soup! It was just perfect and now has become a yearly tradition.

Chicken Noodle Soup

There’s no chance “gourmet” canned chicken noodle soups can match the long-cooked goodness of chicken noodle soup with fresh ingredients. And store-bought soups are packed with sodium. We all know that homemade soup is best. I like to use a variety of vegetables, depending on what’s in season. Parsnips, mushrooms and sweet potatoes are all excellent additions. You can use leftover chicken, poached chicken or even a rotisserie chicken. If I am poaching the chicken, I poach it in the stock I use as the base of the soup. It may be called chicken noodle soup, but the most important piece of this dish is actually the stock.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Noodle Soup

I am often asked about the difference between stock and broth. Many of the chicken, beef and vegetable stock products available in the grocery store are labeled “broth,” which is at odds with the definition of many chefs. Chefs view broth as liquid in which meat, fish or vegetables have been cooked when the goal is also to consume the meat, fish or vegetables.

Stock, on the other hand, is the liquid in which meat, fish, bones or vegetables are simmered for a relatively long period. All the flavor, taste and texture are cooked out of the ingredients, which are then discarded. The remaining liquid is then used as a base for preparing soup, gravy, or sauces.

It’s actually the bones, not the meat, that affect the taste of the stock. I most often use wings or necks for making stock. And, believe it or not, chicken feet, found in Asian markets and grocery stores, make an excellent, gelatinous chicken stock.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

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How To: Make Chicken Stock

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Georgia-born, French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has cooked lapin Normandie with Julia Child in France, prepared lunch for President Clinton and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. A Southern food authority, she is the author of Bon Appétit, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, among others. Follow her continuing exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.

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