© Darius Dzinnik | Dreamstime.com
My kids just got their flu shots. The furnace is spewing hot, dry air filled with all kinds of dusty allergens. I’m finding wads of used tissues around the house, and noting cruddy little streaks on my kids’ sleeves and collars. Ah, yes. It’s the season of the sniffles.
For their allergies, my kids will take nondrowsy meds like loratadine (aka Claritin, but I always buy generic). Nothing soothes a scratchy throat and stuffy nose, though, like hot, steaming liquids. At this time of year, we go through ginger tea by the bucket. But when things get real, it’s time for mom’s chicken soup.
The best chicken soup is made with home-cooked broth. I make this precious stuff after Thanksgiving, when I have turkey bones to simmer, or when I’ve accumulated enough wings and backs to work up a good stock. The rest of the time, though, I can’t afford to sacrifice an entire chicken. People used to when they had old laying hens running around the yard. A bird that was too tough to eat was perfect for the stockpot. But if you want a nice chicken dinner, and also crave chicken noodle soup later in the week, you have to make one bird do double duty.
I found that with a little planning, it’s not hard. For the first night, I braised a large, good-quality chicken with vegetables in a Dutch oven. We ate it with salad and rice, saving all the leftover meat (about half), bones, and vegetables. The next night, I improved some grocery store stock with the bones, then added noodles and the meat and vegetables to make a classic chicken-noodle soup.
There’s a certain combination of carrots, chicken, and slippery-soft noodles that every kid needs at certain times. The soup my mom used to feed me whenever I was home sick came out of an iconic red and white can. It did the trick, but happily, we can do better. This soup, born of pragmatism and thrift, meets that need — for kids and grownups, too.
Two-Night Chicken in a Pot
Serves 4 for a couple of nights First part adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
- A 4 to 5 lb. chicken, giblets removed (if the neck is included, save it for tomorrow)
- Salt and pepper
- 4-6 large carrots, washed, peeled, and sliced into 1/4” thick discs
- 1-2 onions, peeled and quartered OR 3-5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3-4 leeks, peeled, sliced crosswise into 1” chunks, and soaked in cold water to remove sand
- 2 bay leaves
- several sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
Preheat oven to 375. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and rub with a tablespoon of soft butter, then place in a Dutch oven or casserole large enough to hold the chicken but small enough that there isn’t too much space around it. Scatter remaining ingredients around it, add a glass each of water and white wine, season well with salt and pepper, and place in the oven, covered. Cook for an hour. Remove lid, stir the vegetables, and cook till the chicken has browned on top and the juices run clear when you prick the thigh, about 20-30 more minutes. Cut up and serve with some of the vegetables. Reminder: save the carrots, leeks (you can discard the onions & garlic), chicken, bones, and the nice juice from the pot.
- Reserved neck, meat, bones, jellied juices, and vegetables
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
- 8 oz. (half a bag) German or Amish-style noodles
Put bones into a large pot, then pour chicken broth and water as needed to cover. Bring to a simmer while you pick through the meat, removing skin and chopping into ¼”-½” pieces. Chop vegetables into small pieces, too. Once the broth has simmered for 15-30 minutes, strain it and return it to the pot. Add a teaspoon of salt, and cook the noodles according to package directions. When they’re a few minutes shy of soft, add the reserved meat and vegetables. Bring to a simmer, check the noodles for doneness, season to taste, and serve piping hot.