Sunday, October 31, 2010

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

~ Soup and Bread Sundays ~

Our family is scattered relatively evenly throughout the country in a variety of fun destinations.  Except San Diego.  We have family in Florida, Las Vegas, North Carolina, Portland (Oregon), Seattle, Vermont, and New York.  We keep lobbying for someone to relocate to San Diego, which would complete all the vacation spots we really need.  Truthfully, we have waived our strict blood relative requirement.  You simply have to live in San Diego, be willing to hang with us (or not), and provide sleeping quarters for anywhere from three to five days, say once every two or three years.  Come on... we're fun.  Takers?  Anyone?

It's hard to say when our Soup and Bread Sunday tradition started.  I believe it was inspired by the the most relaxing Christmas ever, which was about six years ago.  While a lot of couples/families are run ragged as they scurry from house to house on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we were blessed with absolutely no plans.  D2 was spending Christmas with his mom, and no other family members were within a three-hour drive.  HotDog and I decided we would like nothing better than to make a pot of homemade soup, broil some buttered ciabatta, and watch movies in our PJs all day.  In a world of crammed calendars full of appointments and obligations, that day was a tremendous gift in itself.

We could not risk never experiencing the magic of our Soup and Bread Christmas again, so we parlayed it into Soup and Bread Sundays.  As soon as the weather starts to cool and our Steelers start pre-season play, we are hankerin' for our soup and bread home opener.  Every week with the exceptions of a bye-week or Monday or Thursday night game, we assemble around the television before kick-off with our bowls and blankets, like black-and-gold bedecked bears filling our bellies for hybernation.  However, we don't hybernate; we cheer and yell and high-five and jump up and down.  Well, maybe a catnap at half-time...

Soup's on!  Meet our franchise player.

Kimmers' Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole fully-cooked grocery store rotisserie chicken
3 medium onions
4 Tablespoons butter
1 pound carrots
1 celery stalk or package of two celery hearts
1 Tablespoon thyme
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2-48 ounce cans of chicken broth
double batch of Grandma's Homemade Noodles

This recipe cooks as you go.  For those of you who like to prep, consider setting out all your ingredients as prepping mission completed.  Ta-da!

Take your beautiful rotisserie chicken and pull all the meat off the bones and skin, placing every scrap of that tender meat in a bowl.  Don't worry about tearing it into bite-size pieces; we'll get to that later.  Set these succulent chicken chunks aside.

Place a large soup pot on low-medium heat and begin melting the butter.  As it slowly melts, chop the onions.  Place them in the melted butter and let them saute.  Wash the celery and cut it into slices; add to the onion and stir.  Peel the carrots and slice them into coins.

Add them to the onions and celery, stirring here and there as they saute, too.  Sprinkle on the thyme, add the bay leaves, and give it a good stir, keeping all the veggies evenly coated with the butter.

Like all herbs, fresh oregano is always better than dried.  Luckily, I had some on hand, so I de-leafed a few sprigs and placed the leaves in a prep bowl.  Then I took my kitchen shears and chopped the oregano into tiny pieces.  This photo was supposed to focus on the oregano and not the stonehenge of carrot tops in the background, but you get the idea.  Add the oregano to the pot of goodies and, of course, stir it in.

Then do the same chopping technique to the chicken in its bowl.  Much easier than standing and tearing it into bits, eh?

Guess what.  Yep, add the chopped chicken to the pot and stir some more.  This recipe is really an exercise in stirring.  Feel the burn!

By this time, especially if you are a slowpoke peeler and chopper like me, the onions are translucent; the carrots are softening but still firm.  Add the broth, salt, and pepper and increase the heat to medium-high, bringing the soup to a slight boil.  Stir in the dried or almost-dried double batch of Grandma's Homemade Noodles to the soup and continue to cook at a slow boil.

While the noodles are soaking up all the scrumptious flavors of your soup while they bloat to homestyle delight, start preparing your ciabatta.  No matter what soup we make, HotDog's broiled buttered ciabatta is a constant.  With great care and a wonderful bread knife, saw your ciabatta into slices about 3/4" thick.  Slather on a little butter and place buttered side up on a baking sheet.

After the noodles have cooked for about 15-20 minutes, start taste-testing them for doneness when no one is looking.  Your house will smell heavenly, so whoever sees you will want to sample, too.  When the noodles are just about the right degree of softness/firmness, put your ciabatta about 4-5" below the broiler flame in your oven.  They usually take about 5 minutes to develop a nice shade of golden brown.  Keep an eye on them, though, and remove when they look like they could take the blue ribbon in a toast-making contest.

Love when a meal comes together like this!

As I took these last photos in the kitchen, HotDog and D2 were already cozied up to the tv in the living room.  HotDog yells out, "I hope you wrote down what you did!"  Knowing it was headed for the blog, I responded, "It's a Keeper, isn't it?"  He heartily agreed.

Then as I'm enjoying my soup, D2 goes for Round Two.  I laughed but was secretly tickled on the inside when I saw his heaped-up bowl.

This recipe makes about eight generous bowls of soup - plenty for seconds and delicious leftovers!


For a printer-friendly version without photos, click here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grandma's Homemade Noodles

~ Usin' The Ol' Noodle ~

She didn't even know it was lost until I made an inquiry yesterday, and now it's driving my mom crazy; she can't find my 4th grade class cookbook.  And, truthfully, it's not exactly a book.  We each hand-wrote a recipe on 8.5 x 11 carbon paper, and our teacher used the ever-reliable, unmistakable purple-inked ditto machine to print our recipes on colored paper.  I bet you if I caught a whiff of fresh ditto machine paper at any given moment, I could identify it on the spot.  Yep.  Add that to the list of indelible memories.  Anyway, one staple in the corner and - viola! - let's call it a cookbook, and you can give it to your parents, kids.

My mom allegedly has two copies of this cookbook:  one she has handy, the other MIA.  The one my mom keeps with her other bonafide cookbooks is missing the last several pages, one of which had my paternal grandma's recipe for homemade noodles written in my 4th grade hand, of course.  Mom's other copy has been apparently put away "for good".  She didn't really say that, but that's my secret guess.  She is, however, determined to find it, and a picture will appear here when she does.

This brings me to wonder... how many of you are familiar with this goofy old-fashioned phrase "for good"?  My grandma was famous (in my mind) for it.  Can't use the china; it's for good.  We don't sleep on the nice sheets; they're only for good.  Those new towels... don't you dare touch 'em; saving them for good.  I imagine that "for good" is the reason my grandma had stacks upon stacks of brand new shoes in original boxes when she passed.  Too bad the length of my foot had surpassed hers years before, because it was just about time those styles were coming back.  Rats!

Grandma's homemade noodles never went out of style, though, and they may very well be the oldest "Keeper" I have in my culinary repertoire.  Now I share them with you.

Grandma's Homemade Noodles
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
sifted flour (about 1 1/4 cups)

Add salt to the eggs and whisk together.  Whisk in 1/2 cup of the flour.  Alright, I confess that I really didn't sift the flour.  It didn't seem ultra lumpy, and I was impatient to get on with the noodling.  Hence, the whisk.  Whisks suffice for on-the-fly sifting, right?  My keen rationalization skills made it make sense, and it worked out.  It's all good...

Switch to a fork and keep incorporating flour until it makes a stiff dough, and you can get your hands in there without too much stickiness.

Knead thoroughly, then divide into two portions.  On a floured surface, roll out each portion relatively thin.  Grandma liked to then cover it with a cloth and let it partially dry.  Grandma apparently never had this kind of jonesin' for chicken noodle soup; I chose to immediately cut it into 1/4"-1/2" strips with my pizza cutter.

Separate the noodles and toss them around as you spread them out.  Periodically re-toss until dried.

One look at this pathetic little batch, and I knew it wouldn't be enough.  Since these are so simple to whip up, on to Round Two.

This is more like it.

When they are thoroughly dried, they can be stored  in plastic bags for future use.  Don't ask me how long because I almost always cook them as soon as the broth boils.  Only a couple times have they dried overnight.  Never have they seen a plastic bag.

Cook in boiling broth or add to soups until done, 15-20 minutes or more.  Part of the fun is the sampling along the way, all in the name of testing for doneness.


For a printer friendly version without photos, click here.