The Exact Science of Great Chicken Soup

Nothing says you care, quite like some good homemade chicken noodle soup…Even if you are only saying it to yourself.  

 

It’s what I immediately turn to when I feel a cold coming on or just the mean reds. Chicken soup is dead easy to make – so dead easy that it seems a bit silly to even include it in a recipe blog.  Then again, it’s also pretty easy to screw up as well, as a trip to a stolovaya or even some of the better restaurants around town can prove.  I’m always baffled by this:  chicken soup in Russia tends to be either delicate vermicelli in an overly salty broth or, frankly, the worst cuts of the chicken, grizzle and a half-hearted carrot or two floating in a grey broth that looks and tastes of dishwater.

The broth thing seems to me to be the number one reason why everyone goes without, or puts up with these sub-standard versions of this ultimate comfort food.  But don’t let that stop you, If you’ve never made chicken stock or are afraid to try, check out this step-by-step recipe in the Moscovore’s Basics.

While there are endless variations on chicken noodle soup, there are also four hard and fast rules you absolutely must follow to produce a winner.  These are:

  1. Always use egg noodles.  In Moscow, you find these with the other kind of pasta, but have the Italian word “ouvo” on the package.  You can use any shape you like, but I think the tubular penne group or the wider papperdelle flat noodles work the best.
  2. Poach the chicken separately from the soup and then add it at the very end – don’t stew it for a long time and above all, don’t add it in raw and expect it to be the right texture.   To poach chicken breasts, bring 4 liters of water to a simmer, add a generous handful of salt, half a lemon, some thyme and a few cloves.  Immerse the chicken, reduce heat and let it cook for about 20 minutes.  Strain the breasts, allow to cool, then strip the chicken of its skin and from the bone carcass.  If you are making stock, add these and the water to the stockpot.  This is The Moscovore version of a virtuous cycle.
  3. Be sure to include a generous handful of fresh herbs such as thyme and parsley at the end.
  4. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.

This soup freezes very well so, as ever if you are going to the trouble of making some, do make a lot.  You never know when a container of this stuff could be just what you need. If you’ve got a cold, or feel like one is coming on (when your eyelashes hurt and the back of your throat feels like you are on fire) heat up some chicken soup, then peel an entire head of garlic (yes, the entire head) and then slice each clove into thin strips.   Float the garlic on top of the soup and let it infuse for about five minutes.  Add a generous dash of Tabasco or hot sauce and then eat the whole thing.  You’ll feel 400% better in the morning, though you may want to sleep alone…

The Best Chicken Soup Ever

Serves 10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours, 20 minutes
Meal type Soup

Ingredients

  • (3 quarts) 3l good quality chicken stock (See "The Moscovore Basics" on how to make your own stock.)
  • (2 Tablespoons) 30ml olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 peppers (red or orange) cored and diced
  • 2-3 leeks, carefully washed and finely diced
  • (1 lb) 500 g egg noodles (important: choose egg not wheat)
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, poached, skinned and shredded
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • (1/2 teaspoon) 5ml smoked paprika
  • the juice of one lemon
  • parsley and thyme as a final garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Wash the leeks thoroughly to remove all the grit.

Prep the remainder of the vegetables.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, then sweat
the leeks . When they are soft, add the celery, carrots, and peppers and cook through.
2. Add the stock, lower the heat and simmer covered for 25 minutes. Add the egg noodles. Cook uncovered until the noodles are al dente.
3. Lower the heat again and add the lemon juice, paprika, and thyme. Fold in the poached chicken and heat gently through.
4. Garnish with fresh parsley and thyme.

Variations:

  1. Visit the Salt and Pickle section of the market for pickled garlic, pickled scallions and other preserves.  Add these to the soup to introduce a tangy, sour element that is particularly satisfying on a cold winter day.
  2. Substitute rice, barley, orzo or just more vegetables for the pasta.
  3. For an Italian twist, add slightly wilted spinach and beaten egg, and top the soup with freshly-grated parmesan!

Note:  if you are making this in a slow cooker, sweat the leeks in the stoneware or a skillet, then add the diced vegetables and broth and set your cooker for 3 hours on High.  Add the noodles and let simmer on Low for 4-5 hours.  Steps 3-4 as above.

Serve, and enjoy!

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3 Responses to “The Exact Science of Great Chicken Soup”

  1. Monday, October 31, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Dear Jennifer,
    This is a gorgeous, beautifully functional, high quality blog, and I am so glad to have it in my blogroll! I never knew how to poach chicken before. Thanks so much for this! Can’t wait to try it out on my family. We have no power or heat, but we do have a stove top, so I might even try this tonight. Miss you!
    Love, Nerissa

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    • jennifer
      Monday, October 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

      Nerissa,
      Many thanks for your nice comment. Sending you very warm and highly electric best wishes for a return to wattage soonest, but aren’t you glad you went for gas?

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  2. Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    I’m about to make your stock and soup… Katya really wanted chicken soup, I’m sick, and I thought if I’m going to go to the trouble of doing it from scratch the way Moscow requires, I’d try your stock for a change. Your blog is so, so great. I’m amazed by how high-tech it is! Love the “print this” function!!!! Did you do the design yourself?? Have been away from blogs for so long; look forward to getting caught up on yours and eating along the way!!

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