For me, cooking for my family and friends is about more than just the Zen I achieve in the kitchen. It’s also about putting love on a plate. Food that is made with love has a certain extra something that you don’t get when you open a can or microwave a meal. I spend time considering ingredients, deciding how to build flavors, and planning which foods will complement one another on a plate. I try to create foods that the people I am cooking for will love. I put my heart and soul into my food, and hopefully it comes across in the way I intended it – as a plate or bowl full of pure love.
Today, I made a simple dish, but for me it is the epitome of love in a bowl: chicken soup. This simple meal can be tremendously satisfying when you take the time to develop flavors. Making it even more satisfying, I made some basic egg noodle dough and rough cut noodles that floated in the soup. As sometimes happens, fate stepped in and I had a bunch of ingredients in my refrigerator that lent itself well to chicken soup – and that I needed to get rid of. The result was delicious, and the thickly cut egg noodles made it hearty and satisfying, as well.
Homemade Egg Noodles
- 1-1/2 cup of flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour, and crack the eggs into it.
- I mix the noodles with my (very clean) hands, gradually incorporating the flour into the eggs until I have a rough dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
- Allow the dough to sit for 10 minutes to relax the glutens.
- If using a pasta roller, roll to desired width and roughly cut into egg noodles.
- If using a rolling pin, roll the dough to desired thickness and cut into strips.
- Set aside for a few hours to dry slightly.
Chicken Soup with Egg Noodles
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken – I prefer thighs for flavor and texture
- Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Lite (in color – not calories) olive oil
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 bulb fennel, diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- Chicken stock
- 1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, chopped
- Juice of one or two lemons
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Cut chicken into bite sized chunks. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat a few swirls of lite olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat until it shimmers.
- Working in batches, cook chicken in the pot. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Allow the chicken full contact with the pot bottom until it starts to brown. As the meat browns, it caramelizes the sugars in the protein, known as the Maillard reaction. Once the meat has caramelized on one side, turn it over to allow it to continue to cook through. Your chicken will not react with caramelization if the pan is too crowded, so work in two or three batches.
- Remove the cooked chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a plate.
- Add the carrots, celery, onion, and fennel to remaining oil in the pot, distributing evenly across the bottom. Allow vegetables to stay in contact with the pot without stirring until it begins to brown (but not burn), about 4-5 minutes. This allows the flavors to caramelize and will add richness to your soup.
- Stir in garlic, cooking just until the garlic is fragrant. If you cook it for more than about 30 seconds, the garlic can burn and become bitter.
- Add chicken stock to fill pot about half way, scraping the bottom of the pan as you do to lift all of the flavors that have caramelized there.
- Add mushrooms, lemon juice and a few teaspoons of thyme.
- Return chicken to the pan, pouring any juices that have collected on the plate into the soup, as well.
- Bring soup to a boil, and add the noodles.
- Return to a boil and cook until noodles are el dente – about 6 to 7 minutes.
- Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.
That’s the chicken soup I made today, but mine is never the same twice. I just used what I had available in my refrigerator. The good thing about chicken soup is that you can change it to suit your own tastes. Change the thyme for rosemary. Add different seasonal vegetables like zucchini or green beans. Add rice instead of egg noodles. Once you can make a basic chicken soup, the possibilities are endless to make your own love in a bowl.