Everyone has their favourite chicken noodle soup. Being Chinese, my go-to comfort soup is one with a clear, gingery broth in a bowl full of chewy noodles. It’d ideally be topped with coriander, scallions, and chili oil, with some leftover chicken. And indeed, there’s been some sort of virus going around my office this week and that’s what I’ve been having for lunch.
I’ve also had a special spot in my heart for a Campbell’s-style chicken noodle soup. I grew up eating the canned stuff on “special occasions” (probably for the better since it was full of sodium and weird chicken pieces), and for years thought that recreating my own would be too complicated.
Enter the book Love Soup. I first discovered her book through Heidi Swanson’s writing over at 101 Cookbooks. Soon enough I was at my local library checking out a copy, and I have the author Anna Thomas to thank for initiating me to soups. While I thought that they always required hours of toiling and waiting, she wrote about soups that were intuitive and made with simple ingredients. Of course there is no equivalent to homemade broth, but she suggests a great idea for adding depth to a store-bought broth: adding caramelized vegetables.
Since then, I’ve made many a soup with a base of caramelized onions, adding whatever vegetables need to be used up in the fridge to the pan to brown, and then letting the lot summer in a good broth (more on this below).
Here is my current chicken noodle soup, with a clear broth that is flavoured with browned vegetables and a bouquet of aromatic herbs. Added in is some shredded chicken and a splash of lemon juice and dill to brighten it up. Along with some egg noodles, it is comforting without being heavy, comforting while being light, and a surprisingly easy one-bowl affair. If you’re a chili-fiend like me, you’ll probably want to add a few chili flakes too. You know, to open up those sinuses.
Speaking of broth, I recommend two things:
1) For when you’re feeling like a boss and you make your own broth
This is actually far easier than it seems. All you need is something tasty and a lot of water! For chicken broth, I use the carcass of a leftover roasted chicken. Simply strip off the meat and throw it into a big pot and cover with water. With the lid on the pot, bring it to a boil. For extra flavour, add some herbs like sprigs of rosemary, bay leaf, and any carrots, celery and onions you might have kicking around. I usually boil it for 2-3 hours, strain it, divide it into containers and let it cool before stocking it (pun intended) in the fridge or freezer.
If you’re going for a vegetarian broth, you can throw a mix of vegetables and herbs into water and boil. Or you can gather cleaned vegetable scraps over the week (carrot tops, celery bottoms, greens of leeks), add some herbs, and make a broth with it all at the end of the week.
2) For when you’re at the store already and the boxed broth is looking straight at you
This is totally fair too! I usually rely on store-bought broth. My favourites are always organic, and while sometimes this doesn’t make a big difference in taste, here it truly does. I’ve tried so many broths over the years and here are my favourites:
- Imagine organic free-range chicken broth (low-sodium is fine) – the best
- Pacific Foods organic free-range chicken broth
- GoBio organic chicken bouillon cubes
Lemon dill chicken noodle soup
- 1.5 L good chicken broth
- 1 large yellow onion, or 2-3 small ones (about 1.5 c. diced)
- 3 medium carrots (about 2 c. diced)
- 3-4 ribs of celery
- a bouquet garni (see note)
- 6 boneless chicken thighs (see note for alternatives)
- egg noodles (I used about 180 g)
- 1 bunch dill
- baby arugula, spinach, or kale (1 handful per bowl)
- about ¼ red onion
- 1 lemon
Heat some olive or canola oil in a large pot over medium heat. Meanwhile, dice the onion. Once the pot is heated up, add the onion to brown. Turn heat down to medium-low and let it caramelize.
Wash, peel and dice the carrots. Wash and dice (or simply slice) the celery as well. When the onions look golden but not quite done, add the carrots and celery to brown in the pot.
Once all the vegetables are browned, add 1.5 L of chicken broth, cover and bring to a boil. Then turn down heat to medium and add your bouquet garni. Let simmer while you prepare the chicken.
In a separate pot, bring about 1 L of water to boil. Add the raw chicken and make sure there is enough water to cover. Poach until cooked through.
While you’re cooking the chicken, cook the egg noodles according to package directions. If you are as adverse to mushy pasta as I am, undercook the noodles by a couple of minutes – when you add it to the soup it will finish cooking. Rinse, drain, and set aside.
Remove chicken pieces and rinse under cold water quickly so that it is easier to handle. Using two forks, shred the chicken and then add to the soup.
Remove the bouquet garni and let the soup with the chicken simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
Very thinly slice a quarter of a red onion, or enough for a few slices to top each bowl.
Just before serving, add the egg noodles to the pot and stir.
Serve in bowls, topped with sprigs of dill, red onion, and a handful of baby greens per bowl. Cut a lemon into wedges, with 1 wedge per bowl. Let each guest sprinkle lemon juice into their soup as desired.
- A bouquet garni is a lovely little french term for a bouquet of herbs. In this soup I used thyme, parsley, rosemary, the green part of a leek, and a bay leaf. Tie it together with some kitchen string and let it simmer with the broth.
- I often get boneless chicken thighs simply because it’s a cheaper cut of meat. You could also substitute chicken breast, or even leftover roast chicken.
- For a deeper flavour, throw a parmesan rind into the broth along with the bouquet garni.