Summary: A few summers ago, I had pneumonia. It was pretty awful, but I rediscovered a love for both thousand-piece puzzles and homemade chicken noodle soup. Since then, I've been perfecting my recipe, and without further ado, here it is.
Don't skimp on ingredient quality if you can help it. Nothing called for is overly fancy. I find it so lovely that basic things can coalesce into a magical elixir.
Yield: a big pot!
- one 4 - 5 pound whole chicken (remove giblets but keep skin and all bones on and intact), best-quality you can get
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into 1/2-inch rounds
- 2 stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped into 1/4-inch chunks, reserve leaves for later use in the soup
- 1 medium or large yellow onion, skin removed, onion sliced into wedges (sixths or eighths)
- 5 dried bay leaves
- 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- freshly ground black pepper
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups uncooked, extra-wide egg noodles
Press the tablespoon of kosher salt all over the surface of the chicken and set on a plate near the stovetop.
In a large, enameled cast iron pot (like a Staub or Le Creuset or something similar) set over a medium-high burner, heat the canola oil until it's hot and sliding easily over the base of the pot.
When it's hot, place the chicken, breast side down, in the pot and let it brown, about five minutes. Then, gently flip the chicken to brown the other side too, and, at the same time, add your carrots, celery and onions.
You want the bird to be golden with darker brown spots on the thighs and high points of the breast, the vegetables to have darkened in spots and the onions to be moving towards translucent.
At that point, add the bay leaves, chicken stock, lemon zest, allspice and cinnamon. Grind some fresh pepper over everything and then stir to combine the spices and zest with the stock. Bring the soup to a boil, cover loosely with the pot's lid (slightly askew), and then reduce the heat such that you can maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for an hour, flipping the chicken periodically during that time.
After an hour, use tongs to pull on a chicken wing. Does it resist your tug or does it slip right out of the joint? You want the bird to pretty much fall apart: the meat will not slide off the bones, but the wings, thighs and perhaps even the spine will break apart with just the slightest push.
I usually cook my soup for 90 minutes or a bit more before adding the noodles, at which point I also usually add some water because the noodles will otherwise suck up too much of your excellent broth. Before you add the water and noodles though, remove the chicken. While it cools, add the noodles and water. While they cook, debone, de-skin and shred the chicken.
When you've finished removing all chicken meat from the carcass, return it to your soup. Remove the bay leaves and if need be, season to taste with salt and pepper. Chop and add any celery leaves you've reserved.
You can eat this right away, but I like to let it cool slightly, skim excess fat from the top of the soup, cool in the fridge and reheat later. It freezes well and lasts in the fridge for a good four days.