Chicken Noodle Soup with Oven Simmered Stock
It would be impossible to tell you about this soup without first discussing my recent parenting Fail. That’s fail with a capital “F.” We all have times when we don’t exactly shine in the parenting department and recently I had my turn to be in the shade. These days being a parent is already competitive enough without exposing our failures to each other, but I’ll share mine because nothing makes you feel better about your own parenting fiascos than hearing about someone else’s, right? Consider it my gift to you!
When my alarm went off early one morning to go to Zumba class, I found 4 text messages from Olive indicating that she didn’t feel well and was in the bathroom. For starters, I never heard any of the messages come in, so it wasn’t until an hour later that I found her there, curled up in a tiny ball and asleep on the bath mat. She said she never got sick, so I helped her back to bed, and she went back to sleep. A few hours later, she said she felt better and was ready to go into school. I could tell that something about her was a bit off, but she insisted that she wanted to go, so to school we went! And, as luck would have it, she was at school less than 20 minutes before she got sick, a spectacle which thankfully left her classmates unscathed but I am told covered a desk and a half. She was mortified and I felt terrible. The lesson to be learned here friends is that if your kid is white as a sheet, but says they feel fine, no good will come from listening to them.
And thus began several weeks of illness in our house. We have been plagued by the stomach bug, chronic headaches, THE FLU, and respiratory nastiness. The irony in all of this is that I first started preparing this post because it was March at the time, which means that my family was due for another round of the stomach bug. I can say without any exaggeration whatsoever, that my kids get the stomach bug more than anyone else I know. It comes every December, without fail, and again in March. And just for fun and a nice surprise, at several other occasions throughout the year. I’ve spent the past several years lamenting our bad luck and weak immune systems, but I have finally come to just expect that the stomach bug will be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, kind of like seasonal allergies. Only instead of stocking up on Claritin and making sure every room has an ample supply of tissues, we stock up on saltine crackers and leave buckets in strategic locations throughout the house. It goes without saying then, that the fact that I was working on this post while Olive was camped out on the couch with her bucket should come as no surprise. What did come as a surprise was that our streak of illness didn’t end there and carried on in some form or another for another few weeks.
Parenting failures and contagion aside, let’s talk about this soup. Allow me to start by addressing this issue of the chicken stock right away. Simmering your soup in the oven may seem a bit unorthodox but trust me, it’s a great idea. What you do is you roast your chicken carcass and vegetables, then you add water, put it back in the oven, and ta da! You will be surprised that you created something so good out of chicken bones and water.
I wish I could take credit for figuring this out myself, but I didn’t. As with most of my cooking knowledge, I learned this from my mom. Do you remember the days of AOL? Her username was SoupLady. No one makes better soup than she does, and over the years she has made a lot of it. I suspect soup was a go-to meal for her because it is almost the perfect food. You can make it with relatively inexpensive ingredients, it’s hot and filling, and it is a great make-ahead (and freezer-friendly) meal. Win, win, and win.
Making your own chicken noodle soup isn’t hard, but the key to making it taste really good is in the stock and that requires a bit more effort than just throwing your chicken in a pot with some water. Specifically, there are two things make this soup extra delicious:
1). Stock that is made in the oven
Lets break it down, shall we?
1. Stock is made by simmering bones, vegetables, herbs in water, as opposed to broth which doesn’t utilize any bones, just meat and aromatics. Chicken stock is not difficult to make, but more often than not, the results are a bit lackluster. I often make a stock that is the most beautiful golden color, only to find that despite looking really delicious, it’s actually pretty bland and in need of a good shot of bullion to make it taste as good as it looks. Making your stock in the oven, however, makes bullion unnecessary because it is delicious enough on it’s own. Roasting your chicken carcass, neck, giblets, and vegetables first concentrates their flavor so that when it’s time to start cooking the stock you are starting with ingredients that already have an elevated layer of flavor.
This doesn’t need to be complicated. To keep things simple, you can roast your bones and veggies in a dutch oven, pour water on top, and throw everything back in the oven for another hour. Making your stock this way adds some time onto the process overall, but most of it is completely hands off so I promise that it is not difficult. I’ve tried this using both an oven proof stainless steel dutch oven and an enameled cast iron dutch oven. The results with the enameled cast iron are definitely better because the ingredients brown more which in turn makes for a richer stock. But, if stainless is all you have, use it! NOTE: It may be wise to check your manufacturer’s website to make sure that your dutch oven is ovenproof to a certain temperature.
2. The second key to good stock is parsnips. Have you ever bought parsnips? If you haven’t, they are a chubby, white, carrot-shaped root vegetable that has a slightly sweet flavor. They are often roasted or pureed with potatoes and they get most of their press during the fall and winter, however you can find them year round. One day I was making some soup and on a whim decided to throw in some parsnips I had to use up. It was a happy discovery when I found that parsnips give your broth a subtle sweetness that underlies the rest of the soup flavors. It is one of those ingredients that hangs out there in the background, unidentified except for that feeling that something about the soup is different….better. Not all of our grocery stores here in Huntingdon carry them, but it is worth it to seek them out!
Obviously, to get a chicken carcass, you first need a chicken. I usually get a 5-6 lb. bird and either cook it in the crock pot or roast it in the oven. We eat the breast meat for dinner and I save the leg and thigh meat for soup. No matter how you cook your chicken, be sure to save the neck and giblets to throw in with the cleaned off carcass in the roasting pan.
We have had a cold snap here in Central Pennsylvania but I know that the weather will turn any time now and we’ll all start thinking about grilling our chicken not roasting it. Soup will be the last thing we want to make. The calendar and soon the thermometer will say it’s spring, but trust me, the stomach bug, allergies, and THE FLU are still out there. So do yourself a favor, make a batch of soup, and throw it in your freezer. You will be so glad you did!
- 1 5-6 pound chicken carcass, skin removed, plus neck and giblets
- 1/2 lb. carrots
- 1/2 lb. celery
- 1/2 lb. parsnips
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 4 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 1/2 lb. diced carrots
- 1/2 lb. diced celery
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 8 oz. uncooked egg noodles
- 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- 2. In a large ovenproof dutch oven, combine chicken carcass, neck, giblets, 1/2 pound of carrots, 1/2 pound of celery, 1/2 pound of parsnips. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and ground pepper. NOTE: Works the best using an enameled cast iron pot, however a stainless steel pot will also work. Check manufacturer's instructions (try looking on their website) if you are uncertain about whether or not your pot is ovenproof.
- 3. Roast uncovered in the oven for 1 hour, or until bones and vegetables are nicely browned.
- 4. Add 12 cups of water, cover, and return to the oven for 1 more hour.
- 5. Remove from oven. Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
- 1. Combine 12 cups of stock, 1/2 lb. of chopped carrots (approximately 1 1/2 cups), 1/2 pound of diced celery (approximately 1 1/2 cups), chicken, parsley, and salt. Bring to a boil.
- 2. Add uncooked egg noodles, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until noodles are cooked and vegetables are tender.
- 3. Add remaining salt to taste.
- Makes approximately 15 cups of soup, or 10 1 1/2 cup servings.