This past weekend the weather in our area was cold and bleak. We didn’t get the brunt of the ice storm that pummeled a swath of the Midwest, but a creeping dampness seeped into every crevice. To tackle the blues that often set in on days like these, I sought comfort. Our fireplace crackled throughout the days. My twinkle lights on the mantle offered up a cheery message. On Sunday we were even able to grab a brisk walk in-between misty showers. And food, of course, brought warmth.
When I think of comfort food, certain dishes come to mind. Chocolate chip cookies. Macaroni and cheese. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Any type of thick soup. Comfort food is just that. It is meant to warm the soul, so on Sunday afternoon I gathered the ingredients for homemade chicken noodle soup. This is a worn and loved Tyler Florence recipe I have had for years. It involves making stock with a whole chicken, which is imperative. Boxed stock is a good go-to and I use it all the time, but homemade stock creates a creamy kick to this soup. Even though in the past I have made my own noodles, this time I threw in a bag of Amish style noodles. They have no preservatives and are delicious. (And to be truthful, I have never mastered the whole noodle thing but have great respect for those who have.)
Later that evening my husband and I sat down to steaming bowls of chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. (I’ll tackle the grilled cheese vs. cheese toastie on another day.) Our stomachs and hearts were whispering, “This is warmth. This is love.” I acknowledge food can’t hide all the scary things in this world, but it sure can damn well offer up some respite. If you feel the need for some cozy comfort, I have included the recipes for both the stock and soup.
“Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort.” – Norman Kolpas
Recipe for Chicken Stock:
1 whole chicken (preferably organic), rinsed with giblets thrown away
2 carrots, cut in large chunks
3 celery stalks, cut in large chunks (I also throw in the leaves)
2 large white onions, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved
1/4 bunch of fresh thyme or a two palmfuls of dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Place the chicken and vegetables in a large stockpot over medium heat. Pour in about 3 quarts of cold water. (Too much will make the broth weak.) Toss in the thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and allow it to slowly come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for about one and a half hours, partially covered, until the chicken is done. Skim foam off the surface and add more water, if necessary.
Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board. Let it cool, and then remove cooked meat from the skin and bones. Cut meat into small chunks. If making the stock ahead of time, put the meat into a store container and place in refrigerator.
Carefully strain the stock through a fine sieve into another pot to remove the vegetable solids. Use the stock immediately, or cool and refrigerate or freeze.
Recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
4 fresh thyme sprigs or a palmful of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 bag of dried wide egg noodles (I added a 16 ounce bag because the chicken was large. If you have a smaller chicken, add less noodles.)
salt and pepper
Place a soup pot over medium heat and coat with oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent, but not browned. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add noodles and simmer for 5 minutes until tender. Fold in chicken, and continue to simmer for a few more minutes to heat through; season with salt and pepper. (Note: Homemade soup may require more salt to taste. I use sea salt which has a fuller flavor than table salt.)
(This Tyler Florence recipe came from FoodNetwork.com)