Found yourself a whole chicken on sale and not sure what to do with it? You’ve got two failsafe options: roast it (or, as I prefer to do, cut it up and roast the parts separately), or simmer it whole for soup. This week has been more of a soup week, so I chose to do the latter with my little friend. There’s nothing at all fancy, different, or innovative about this soup. It’s the one everyone’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother probably made; simple, comforting, and cheap, and nothing smells better bubbling away on top of the stove. In fact, you don’t even really need a recipe for it, but I’m providing one anyway for inspiration.
This is an extremely simple version, the way my mom used to make it for my brother’s and my picky palates: chicken, noodles. That’s it. If you want to add extras such as diced carrots and celery, make sure you cut them small enough and sauté them for a while first so they become sufficiently soft.
One serving of this is equal to at two cans’ worth of Campbell’s, if you’re comparing prices. (Leaving out the fact it has about a million times more chicken meat.)
• 1 whole chicken (I usually don’t even bother to cut it up. Just plop it in there): $4.50
• Contents of a stock bag (if you don’t have a stock bag, substitute a few celery stalks, a large carrot, and an onion, cut into chunks): $0
• 2 bay leaves (optional): 2 cents
• 10 whole peppercorns (optional): 2 cents
• A few sprigs of thyme, tied together with butcher’s twine (or use just a little tuft cut off the plant, as I do) (garden): $0
• 8 oz. egg noodles: 45 cents
• Salt and pepper: 2 cents
• Parsley for garnish (optional) (garden): $0
TOTAL: $5.01/6 = 83 cents/serving
Put the whole chicken in a stockpot. You can choose to take the giblets out (I don’t like to use the liver), or just leave ’em in there. Cover the chicken with at least 16 cups of cold water. Add the contents of the stock bag, the bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, skimming scum off the top with a spoon.
When the time is up, remove the chicken and strain the stock, pressing down on the solids.
Let the stock sit while you pick the meat off the chicken.
When the stock has cooled enough to spoon some of the fat off the top, return it to the pot and season to taste. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Add the chicken meat back to the pot. Season further to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into large bowls and garnish with parsley, if desired.