Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grammy’s Chicken and Noodles

Is there any dish more universally comforting than a steaming bowl of chicken and noodles? Long ago (and still in some areas of the world) it was a celebratory dinner made when the tough, old hen stopped laying eggs (poor dear) and, after a long, gentle bath in aromatic water was transformed into the most beloved, savoury supper. In Asia, the addition of a knob of fresh ginger or a stalk of lemon grass may be added, and in Slavic countries it would be more likely served with dumplings rather than noodles. In any case, at it’s heart, a slowly simmered chicken strikes the same ring of nostalgia in our stomachs—Home.

I love my mom’s chicken and noodles. She uses the same simple recipe that her mother used (and her mother’s mother before her). Very few ingredients and several hours of hands-off cooking, yields the most sublime finished dish. It is a classic.

1 Chicken
Chicken stock or bouillon cubes and water
1 yellow onion, cut in half, skin left on
8 ounces (220 grams) fine egg noodles (or noodle of your choice)
1 tablespoon, freshly chopped tarragon

1) Place the chicken into a deep soup pot and cover with chicken stock or water with equivalent chicken bouillon cubes, and the halved onion (leaving the skin on the onion will produce a more golden stock). Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook ever-so gently for about two hours—but cook longer if you like, topping up with more water or stock as needed. This can all be done in the crockpot, on high setting, starting with boiling stock, and cooking all day (your house will small divine!).

2) Carefully pull the chicken (which will probably have fallen apart by now) out of the soup pot. Make sure to get all the onion, bits and bones left behind. Allow the stock to cool, then skim off the fat from the top. Pull the meat from the bones, shredding by hand as you go—discard the skin, bones and onion.  This can all be done ahead of time and refrigerated for up to a day.

3) Bring the skimmed stock to the boil and add in noodles. Bring back just to a simmer and cook according to package directions until al dente. Add the chicken meat back in to the soup along with the tarragon and season with salt and lots of black pepper.

Serves 8

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