I’ve come to the conclusion that making soup is like fake cooking. You need only a vague understanding of how foods taste together, some basic knife skills (sharp side cut good) and the ability to boil water.
Chances are you’re going to achieve awesome soup that will impress your friends and family who think soup is hard to make.
I undertook a chicken noodle soup for the first time this fall. My experience bore out the one piece of soup-making advice I’d give the world: You don’t need a recipe. Yes, you can search the Internet or pore over cookbooks for variations and ideas on what herbs to add, but, trust me, you can just about wing it.
For my chicken noodle soup, I grabbed a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store because I’m lazy and then spent about 15 minutes pulling all the meat off the bones.
I started my broth going by sautéing a diced onion, diced celery (3 or 4 stalks) and some garlic in some olive oil. I added in vegetables I’d saved and frozen over the spring and summer – seriously, when you’re chopping vegetables in the pre-soup seasons, save the peels and ends and what you would normally throw away because they’re great for stock.
I chopped a few carrots and a few more stalks of celery to add to the pot along with a couple of bay leaves, a couple shakes of cumin (‘cause I’m on a cumin kick lately), salt, pepper, the chicken carcass and enough water to cover it all.
It boiled; it simmered for about 30-45 minutes. I poured the whole thing through a metal sieve and didn’t feel like finishing the soup. So I let the broth sit in a glass bowl overnight and refrigerated the pulled chicken (minus a couple forkfuls).
The broth tasted oily – stupid chicken carcass – so I skimmed off what I could the next morning and then shrugged my shoulders before sautéing another diced onion, some diced celery and garlic along with some salt and pepper.
While that was sizzling, I chopped up some carrots and celery into appropriate bite-sized pieces. I’ve got corn I cooked over the summer but I’m saving that for a corn chowder in the next soup experiment. How much carrots and celery? Whatever you think looks good in proportion to the broth, chicken and noodles you’re going to add. Some people like a lot of vegetables, some like more noodles. Do what you want.
When my version of a mirepoix was perfect, I poured in the broth and brought it back to a boil. I tossed in the chicken pieces and some extra wide egg noodles. It cooked for about 8 minutes or so – whatever the noodle cooking time was.
As I ladled my soupy goodness into plastic containers, I realized I needed more broth. The noodles soaked up more of it than I anticipated. What I had was more like a stew with a little broth than an actual soup. A trip to grocery store netted me a couple boxes of premade chicken stock which I added to the individual soup containers.
A short cool down later and they joined the roasted pepper/garlic/tomato soup already in the freezer. I’ve taken a couple to lunch and they’ve been thawed and heated for dinners. Not bad. My version needed something – maybe because my mental chicken-soup benchmark (for good or ill) is Campbell’s and that tastes pretty salty. Maybe more herbs or spices next time. Maybe not as long for the chicken carcass or a better cleaned carcass.
We’ll see what happens. One of the fun things about making your own soup is that each batch will be slightly different.
Next up on the soup agenda: potato soup, corn chowder soup and more pepper/garlic/tomato soup (maybe a bisque version this time). Yum.