Tuesday, February 9, 2010

weeknight chicken noodle soup

During the work week, my husband and I kind of have an unspoken check in around 4:30pm every day. It's that chance for us to say hello and talk about the evening- confirm late meetings, dinner plans, etc. Sometimes that phone call or email is also the first notification that one of us is not feeling well and that what started out as a sore throat in the morning, has now hideously morphed into a sore throat- smashed sinus- throbbing head cold.
Sickness rarely schedules itself at a good time and getting sick in the midst of the midweek whirl of work, activities, and commitments is always lame. When I am sick (or taking care of someone sick), I want to provide comforting soothing things, like soup.  But the time crunch between the end of the work day and the beginning of the dinner hour does not allow a lot of time for homemade soup making. Enter weeknight chicken noodle soup. I make this for those nights (and really anytime) that I crave homemade soup but do not have the time to poach my own chicken or make my own stock. This is not a magic recipe (it still takes some time, I'd say about 45 minutes) but it is made far less laborious by relying on a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and pre-made stock.
Is stock made from scratch the best? Absolutely, no dispute there. However, it is also time consuming. For years, I had read in so many cookbooks that the only real way to make soup was to make one's own stock and I must admit I was so completely intimidated that I did not make soup for a long time. Then I realized that we have to keep living and more often than not this means I use store bought chicken stock in my cooking. I take enormous comfort in knowing that Nigella Lawson uses bouillon cubes or concentrated stock pretty regularly in her recipes.
I hope this soup will nourish you and those you love on busy nights. 

weeknight chicken noodle soup

1 lg. yellow onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped (I like to cut them on the bias to make them look pretty)
3 carrots, chopped
1 rotisserie chicken
(3) 32 oz. containers of chicken stock
1 16oz. package of egg noodles (I use about 3/4 of the package)
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch Italian parsley

1) Chop the veggies and cook on medium heat in a large pot with a good glug of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon.) Cook until the onions are translucent. (A fun fact: onions, carrots, and celery all cut up together are referred to in French as a mirepoix and are the starting base for many soups and sauces. I've noticed some grocery stores now carry little tubs of pre-cut mirepoix in the produce department.)
2) Pour in the chicken stock and raise the heat to medium high. While the veggies soften up, shred the rotisserie chicken (discard any skin and bones) and add to the pot.

3) Once the stock is simmering, add the noodles and cook until tender (about 11 minutes). This is a good point to taste the broth for flavor. I prefer a good bit of black pepper in my chicken soup (like grandma makes it) and if the broth feels a bit thin, a couple of teaspoons of chicken bouillon can help.

4) Once the noodles are cooked through I like to stir in a large handful of rough-chopped Italian parsley leaves.

5) Serve a large steaming bowl to someone in need of comfort or cheering up.

mascarpone, lemon curd & cookies

I have been noticing mascarpone showing up in recipes lately. It is an Italian cheese that is kind of sweet, but mostly just marvelously creamy. It has a consistency similar to cream cheese, but is so much lovelier.
This is one of my favorite little sweet snacks: creamy mascarpone spread on a waffle cookie with a dab of lemony lemon curd.
I like to keep all the components on hand to share with friends. It is effortless, simple and just enough different to be interesting.

Of course Trader Joes makes the best mascarpone, lemon curd and waffle cookies. However, these treats can also be found at other specialty food stores. They are worth the extra trip.