Well it’s good to be back after missing a day. FYI: I suffer from nerve damage and sometimes it flares up without warning, creating too much pain for me to be able to sit still and write. But today is another day and I am feeling about 50% better so I thought I’d pen a thought or two.
One of the things about being confined to bed, is that you watch an awful lot of television. Admittedly for me, it’s mostly Food Network or The Cooking Channel. Ever since I was a little boy, sitting in the tiny kitchen of our Brooklyn tenement, watching my mother peel potatoes and doing other prep for the evening meal, I have been intrigued with cooking. It amazed me how learning a few simple techniques, could open up a world of culinary possibilities.
My mother explained to me that cooking was basically about knowing two things. One needs to know what different foods, spices and herbs taste like, and you will then be able to distinguish what tastes good together. And most importantly, it really was the method, rather than the recipe that was important to learn. Once you knew how to prepare something like… beef stew, the window was now open for chicken stew, pork stew, potpie, short ribs, pot-roast, etc. Also, a few changes in ingredients, such as green chilies into a pork stew along with a slight variation of the seasoning, (maybe some chopped cilantro instead of parsley and a touch of lime), and just that easy, you suddenly have a Latin inspired meal. Now it would make far more sense to serve the stew over a bed of rice than say, buttery mashed potatoes.
Another thing about learning the fundamentals of a good stew, is that you now have the bonus knowledge of the “basics of soup making.” After all when you think about it, isn’t a stew really little more than a thickened soup? Here you can go crazy, simply by changing out meats and/or vegetables and adding a starch like noodles, rice or pasta (maybe the addition of some beans), and you have an arsenal of hearty one pot meals at your fingertips!
The following is my mom’s recipe for her bottomless chicken noodle soup. It’s so incredibly basic and easy, but also hearty and delicious!
Trudy’s Bottomless Chicken Noodle Soup:
A whole chicken cut up
2 Extra chicken breasts (on the bone)
1 large sweet onion – peeled and chopped into a small dice
5 stalks celery – cut on the bias, into ½ inch chunks
5-6 carrots – cut on the bias into ½ inch chunks
2 quarts (8 Cups) chicken stock – preferably homemade*
Water – enough to totally submerge chicken and come up 3-4 inches higher
Salt – to taste
Cracked black pepper – one heaping teaspoon or to taste)
2 tablespoons of fresh, flat-leaf parsley – roughly chopped
1 large bag egg noodles (we liked wide noodles but feel free to use your favorite)
Remove skin from the chicken. Don’t worry about the wings and drumsticks. This is a LARGE pot of soup and a little fat will add some good taste without making the soup “greasy.”
Place chicken into a large stock pot and add the chopped vegetables. Cover with the stock and water and add salt & pepper to taste. Cook over high heat until soup come to a boil. As soon as it boils, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook about 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from pot and set aside in a platter or bowl to cool.
Raise the heat on the soup to medium and continue to cook until veggies are tender and the liquid has reduced slightly. About another 15-20 minutes.
Using a hand strainer, scoop out the vegetables and set them aside in a bowl.
This is the point to taste your soup, so you can adjust seasoning (salt and/or pepper) if needed.
Turn heat up to high and bring to boil. Once boiling, add egg noodles. Cook about three minutes less than package recommends. The noodles are going to continue to absorb broth and become soft. They will also release their starch, slightly thickening the soup.
While noodles are cooking, tear off all the meat that you can, from the chicken and discard bones. Cut meat into bite-size pieces.
Once the noodles are cooked, remove pot from heat and add the chicken and the vegetables back in. Stir to distribute. Add parsley and stir once more.
* You can make the soup with all water in lieu of broth, but add about 4-6 packs of either liquid or powdered chicken base or bouillon. If you are using the bouillon or base, adjust your amount of salt accordingly as these ingredients are very salty on their own. Remember, you can always add more salt if needed, but you can’t remove it if you put in too much.
This hearty soup is a “meal in a bowl” when served with a salad and a nice piece of crusty bread. We used to sprinkle a heaping spoonful of grated parmesan cheese into our bowl of soup. It really kicks it up to a new level. But this is purely optional and a matter of personal taste.
Until next time,