Friday, January 8, 2010

it doesn't come in cans

Is there anything better than a steaming hot bowl of homemade soup on a winter day? I mean, if you have to live in Northeast Ohio in January, you should, at the very least, have something hot and tasty to eat.

I make a lot of soup in the fall and winter, big pots of it that only taste better with each re-heating. I make bean soup with ham and ditalini. I make lentil soup with chunks of kielbasa and lots of garlic. I make Ben's favorite, beef barley soup with turnip greens and a medley of mushrooms. New for this fall, I made up a recipe for stuffed cabbage soup. I downloaded four different recipes I found online, and took what I wanted from each. Not to brag, but that is damn good soup.

The best soup I make, however, is also the simplest and the one I have been making for the longest time - chicken noodle soup. When Julie had a cold she couldn't shake last week, I knew it was time to make some. I took a couple of roast chicken carcasses from the freezer, put them in the stock pot with onions and garlic and celery and carrots and filled the pot with water. Then I let it simmer all day. I swear, the smell alone is good for what ails you.

Once the stock has been strained, I add noodles and some fresh parsley, and that's all. Oh, I sauté some vegetables and chop up some chicken for others to add, but nothing else goes in my soup bowl. I am a chicken noodle soup purist.

For years, I have preferred extra fine egg noodles above all others, in spite of the fact that they generally slip off my spoon faster than I can slurp them up. I have, however, found a new noodle that is worthy of my chicken stock, and, I would go so far as to say, completes the soup in a way I didn't even know it was lacking.

Julie and I found these noodles in a little import store in a strip mall in Uniontown. The store sells mostly Eastern European food, and we found a whole shelf of Hungarian egg noodles. Now, I happen to know a little (well, very little) about Hungarian egg noodles, as I have a very clear memory of my Hungarian grandma rolling out noodles and cutting them into long strips on the big kitchen table in the basement of her house. I had never seen anyone do that before - nor since, for that matter.

Julie and I bought a couple of different shapes, but the ones I like best are called Csiga, and they look like little ridged horns. And I am telling you, they are perfect for my chicken noodle soup. They are eggy and delicious, needless to say, but what I really love about them is they stay on my spoon. I don't think I can overstate the importance of that.

So, if you're cold and hungry, give me a bit of advance notice and I'll cook up a big pot of soup for you. I don't think it will be chicken noodle, however, unless I have some Csiga in my cupboard.


Bryan said...

When the weather first turns cold in September or October, I get a craving for several soups that were a staple at the Bird household that time of year when I was growing up. One is the hamburger barley vegetable soup recipe found on the barley box. Another is a potato soup recipe my mom has perfected over the years. And the third -- not sure if it's "soup" per se -- is "Wednesday's Chili," which I like because it doesn't have huge onions or tomato chunks in it (you strain a can of French onion soup and use tomato sauce/paste instead). And yes, I got all the recipes and made them all this past autumn. :)

My mom has tried making homemade chicken soup before, but it never seemed to turn out right. She always ended up stirring in bouillon granules to add flavor.

Ben said...

I still like your barley soup the best, but this chicken noodle soup really hit the spot. I think using two rather than one chicken carcasses helped crank up the flavor, which can be subtle sometimes. Of course the csiga noodles are key. Hooray for not splashing soup on my glasses whilst slurping up an errant vermicelli noodle. A great find.

anne mancine said...

I have never found a good potato soup recipe, so if you recommend your mom's, Bryan, I would love to have it.

I make a pretty decent chili, too, although I think it is unlike anyone else's. We don't like tomato chunks, either, so I use tomato paste, as you said, but I can't cook without onions (no, really, I'm serious about that) so they are definitely in there. Ben doesn't like kidney beans, so I use pinto beans and black beans, instead, and I add corn right at the end for some interesting texture.

Tell your mom there is nothing wrong with adding a bit of bouillon to her stock. The important thing is how it tastes, not how you arrive there. ;)