Thursday, 8 January 2015

Do as I say, Not as I do - Chicken Noodle Soup

If a Winnipeg girl tells you it's cold outside, it's bloody cold outside. Although she'll start muttering about Winnipeg being a dry cold and at least it's sunny all the time. And not only was it cold, but it was a tough day too, with the realities of being a grown up feeling at times agonizing and insurmountable. So naturally, when I saw Smitten Kitchen's recipe for her 'Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup' I needed to eat it. Today.

Before I tell you about it, I wanted to talk quickly about my goal in writing here. In the long term, I'd like to talk about food in the grander scheme of things, including food policy, food security, and books. But right now, I just want to tell you about what I'm cooking, and how to make it work in your kitchen. I'll always use other people's recipes, so think of me as a recipe tester, making stupid mistakes and testing products and appliances so you don't have to. I'll only tell you about things that are delicious and worth recreating yourself, and hopefully tell you how to make it easier.

Back to the soup. I had planned to get it started earlier, but a last minute lunch with a friend had me at the grocery store at 3pm. Our local butcher had no chicken backs, necks, or other bones. Deb (of says you can use 4 lbs of chicken wings instead, but that's a lot of wings and, well, I chickened out and bought half as much. Which was dumb, because chicken wings are really not that expensive. At that point, I should have abandoned the project until I had time to go to St. Lawrence Market for the proper carcass bits, but like I said, I needed this soup today. In the end, it was truly delicious and exactly as soul fulfilling as hoped, but not without pitfalls along the way.

My notes:
-If you can't get backs/necks and don't have carcasses in your freezer (as Nigella says you should), just buy the chicken wings. In bulk they aren't that expensive and the flavour is well worth it.
-I've decided that I'd rather spend a bit more money not to waste food, and as a result I've started buying carrots and celery in bulk (which is to say, individually) as needed. Three large carrots and three celery stalks cost me $2, but there's no extras moldering in my crisper drawer.
-Speaking of moldering, how many tiny cans of tomato paste have you bought, used a tbsp of, and thrown away? Buy tomato paste in tubes, my friends. It lasts longer and is only marginally more expensive.
-Three leeks cost me $4.49. They come in bunches and I only needed one. If you have no further leek needs, consider skipping them and use shallots or onions instead.
-Unless you're planning on leaving the broth in the slow-cooker all day, don't bother. I tried her slow-cooker method and it just can't get the temperature up as quickly as you want for satisfying results. I ended up moving it to the stock pot early and it was a pain. I wish I'd started it there. We would also have eaten two hours earlier.
-I accidentally only bought two chicken breasts instead of three. It was plenty of meat.
-Be conservative on how much noodle you use in direct correlation to how much broth you end up with. I cooked my broth down pretty aggressively to get the flavour I wanted, but the requisite amount of noodles ended up sucking all of the broth up. Delicious, yes. Soup, not so much. 
-Unless you have another immediate need for parsley, don't bother buying it. It'll just melt into a puddle of green mush in your fridge.
-Build some time for the soup to cool into your timeline, otherwise there's going to be a lot of burnt tongues.

Seriously though, this is a gorgeous recipe and well worth making. My pot of soup actually looked like the pictures and tasted like a dream.

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