Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Lemony Chicken Orzo Soup

Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

Homemade chicken noodle soup is my absolute favourite thing ever. It's indulgent (at least the way I make it), comforting, flavourful and it makes the most incredible leftovers. I often make this when I want to ensure I've got things in the fridge to warm up for lunches and dinners throughout the week while other times I make this simply to freeze for later. Lately, I'm making this soup a lot because it's my favourite and sometimes the only thing I can find in the meat fridges at the grocery store are whole chickens. Whatever the reason, it's always delicious and made even better by topping with Parmesan cheese that melts, adding a gooey, salty, unique flavour and texture to the soup.

A few people have asked me for my chicken soup recipe, but if I'm completely honest, I make it differently every time. I've been working over the past couple of weeks to put together a recipe that anyone could follow, but I can't stress enough how lenient this recipe can be. I've used as few ingredients as possible here because I understand that a lot of things just aren't available at the moment, but I will absolutely use this soup as a good excuse to throw in things I need to use up like spare vegetables and herbs. You should absolutely feel free to get creative with this recipe. Add carrots and celery, substitute the lemons for limes, throw a bunch of leftover shallots or sprigs of thyme into the stock or add a ton of garlic towards the end for a real pop of flavour. The sky is the limit - this recipe is just a guide.

This soup is a little time-consuming and can be a bit messy to put together, especially the first couple of times you make it, but it's so worth it if you can spare an hour or two. Everyone always loves this soup when I make it and if you can split it into two lots (see below), it doesn't seem so laborious. It's definitely a great quarantine project to get involved with and hopefully you'll enjoy making it as much as I hope you enjoy eating it! 

ingredients

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
2 sprigs of thyme (or generous shake of dried thyme)
Generous shake of celery salt (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil or garlic oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled & bashed with the flat side of a knife
1 onion peeled and halved (optional)
2 lemons, cut in half (optional)
Chicken stock cubes or pots (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if desired/optional)
250g orzo pasta (or other small soup pasta)
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

Whole Chicken Soup

Method:
1. Rinse the chicken and place it into a large stock pot that has a lid. Add the thyme, celery salt, olive oil, garlic cloves, onion, lemons and a generous amount of salt & pepper.  Cover with water (I usually use about 5 pint glasses of water, but it will depend on the size of your pan and chicken) and put it on high heat, bringing to a boil.

2. When the water boils, the fat will start to rise in big white clumps. Skim as much of this off the top with a spoon as you can and discard it.

3. Reduce the heat to medium low, clamp on the lid and leave to simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and here's the tricky, messy part. You need to remove the chicken and strain the stock into a separate bowl or pot. I usually do this by removing the chicken with two sturdy utensils to a large cutting board before straining the stock through a colander into a separate bowl. Once all the stock is strained, discard all the bits, rinse out your pot or get a new one and return the stock to the burner on high heat with the lid on.

5. The chicken will be hot, but I find it's easier to pull the meat before it cools. You can do this with a carving knife, two forks, your hands or all of the above and there's no need to be too precious about it. You aren't going for pretty, uniform pieces here. Once it's all removed, you can chop any of the pieces that are too big for a spoon or pull them apart with your hands as you add them to the soup. Make sure you've gotten all the meat from the legs and the bottom of the chicken as well - they are usually the softest, juciest, most flavourful pieces. There's a lot of meat on a whole chicken, depending on what size you buy so you have two options here. You can use all of it for the soup which is absolutely delicious, or you can reserve half to use for something else. I normally freeze half so we can have soup again another time, but it's up to you.

6. When the chicken is all removed from the carcass, discard it and throw the desired amount of meat into the stock.

7. You need to make a decision here about whether or not you need more stock. I find that normally I do need at least 3 pints of additional stock, but it depends on the size of the pan you started with. I find more is better, especially if you plan to keep leftovers because the pasta swells. I simply make stronger than directed stock using cubes or stock pots from the grocery store with boiling water and add it to the pot.

8. Once the stock is boiling, add the Cayenne pepper if you're using it and generously season the stock with salt & pepper before adding the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and boil it for another 15 minutes or so with the lid on, stirring occasionally. If you find the pasta is sticking, add another drop of olive oil. If the soup looks like it's getting too dry, simply add more water and/or stock and taste it as you go.

9. Serve in a bowl, generously sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

10. Allow any leftovers to cool completely before storing covered in the refrigerator.

Cook's Notes
* If you're planning to freeze the soup, make up until step 8, but do not add the pasta. Freeze the soup and add pasta when reheating.

* If you want to add veggies to the soup such as chopped celery or carrots, add them in step 8. If you want them to be soft, boil the soup with the vegetables in it for 10-15 minutes before adding the pasta and then follow the directions from there.
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