This is the first soup I ever make for our family, and it's still a favorite. Pair it with a green or fruit salad and it's a complete meal. The amount of soup below will feed my family two times, especially when I serve it with sides.
When I see whole chickens on sale for a great price ($.50 - $.60 a lb) I'll buy five or more (depending on freezer space) to make this recipe, tortilla soup, chicken and dumplings, roast chicken with roasted veggies or just tons of stock and chicken to freeze for later meals. :) If you have never made your own stock from scratch you will never want to go back to the store-bought stuff. Homemade is so much more flavorful and it freezes wonderfully. Consider freezing it in three sizes: quart, pint and cup. That way you can defrost just the amount you need with little to no waste. :)
4 lb chicken
Whole wheat egg noodles
3 lg garlic cloves, smashed with flat side of knife (no need to peel)
4 celery stalks, cut into chunks
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
1 lg onion (I prefer sweet), peeled and quartered
Bunch of fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 T salt (start with 1 T and check flavoring to be sure it's not too salty for your taste, you can add more when you add bones to stock).
1. Remove any extra pieces from cavity and rinse chicken well with cool water.
2. Place in large stock pot with all vegetables and seasonings.
3. Add cool water to cover chicken by an inch.
4. Turn pot to medium until you see a bubbles rising to the top. Then turn pot to med-low/low (see notes below).
5. Skim any impurities that rise to the surface during cooking.
6. Cook for 90 minutes to 2 hrs until chicken is cooked through and extremely tender. If you try to pull the chicken by the legs they will just fall off!
7. Remove chicken and allow to cool. Remove meat from bones and cut into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle a little olive oil over chicken along with a little stock from the pot to keep moist.
8. Add bones back into broth and simmer for another 30-60 minutes. Add more salt at this point if needed.
9. Strain broth to remove all veggies, spices and bones. Rinse out stock pot.
10. Place broth back into pot. If time allows place in fridge for a few hours or overnight and fat will rise to the top and solidify making it very easy to remove. If not, just let broth sit for a time and you will be able to skim most the fat that rises to the top.
11. Bring to a boil and add egg noodles. I usually use about 2/3 of the package but you can use more or less depending on how you like your soup.
12. Once noodles are tender, turn off heat and add desired amount of chicken.
Thoughts on this recipe:
The trick to making really tender, juicy chicken is to never let your pot get to a boil. This will toughen your chicken. At step four you just want to start seeing gentle bubbles rising to top, one every second or so and then turn your heat down. When your heat is turned down you should be seeing a bubble rise to the top every few seconds. Also if you don't cook your chicken long enough it will not be tender enough either. Most of the time I cook mine closer to two hours but your cooking time will depend on the exact size of your chicken and the heat you use to cook/how hot your stove gets.
You can vary the spices/seasonings you use to make your stock. Add/delete/change any of the spices to fit your family's tastes. Also, I typically don't need all the stock this process provides for my soup. I can typically freeze at least a quart of stock. It will just depend on the broth to filling ratio you prefer in your soups. Finally, my boys don't like veggies in their final soup, but if I was making a pot just for me I'd add some carrot slices and finely chopped celery in to cook when I added the egg noodles.
If you are only interested in making stock and not the soup simply use the chicken for another meal or freeze it. The stock can be refrigerated for a week or frozen up to three months.
Cost Breakdown: $5.07
$ 2.00 - chicken (on sale for $.48 a lb)
$ .79 - ww egg noodles (on sale, regular price is $1.89)
$ . 12 - garlic cloves
$ . 50 - celery stalks (I got organic for this price)
$ . 50 - carrots (again, organic)
$ . 01 - peppercorns
$ . 50 - lg onion
$ .50 - fresh parsley - about half a bunch (less $ if you use dried)
$ . 04 - dried thyme
$ . 03 - bay leaves
$ . 08 - sea salt