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In Iowa, when January hits, winter really sinks in. The wind often howls, and the snow I was dreaming of at Christmas starts to fall. When I say I hibernate during the winter, I mean that I stay in and crave to cook food that warms my soul. These urges to cook are often what inspires comfort food: those foods that bring warmth, but also somehow relax as well.
Often, comfort foods are heavy on starch and literally leave us wanting a nap from the intensity. But comfort comes in a variety of ways: with memories and even nourishment.
Chicken noodle is my go-to soup. I say go-to but I often inadvertently overlook it and forget how good it really can be. The ingredients are simple enough that I always have them on hand… and I bet you do too! Growing up, Mom would often make chicken noodle soup for a quick supper and my dad, sister, and I all loved it.
Homemade is the only way to make it as the flavor is full and the soup is hearty. The stand out flavor needs to be chicken, though. Purchased chicken stocks can be good, but most times they have too much salt.
So rather than using purchased chicken stock, just as easy is cooking a whole chicken in the soup to create and retain all the necessary flavor. A small fryer is reasonable and is full of flavor with plenty of meat, some that can even be kept as a leftover for another dish.
Chicken soup does not have many ingredients so each one needs to be extraordinary. I find presliced baby carrots are often the easy default, but they lack real carrot flavor. This soup calls for the use of organically-grown carrots and celery. The flavor and nutrients of the vegetables will be at the forefront and will complement the chicken.
To add even more vegetal presence, this recipe uses one bulb of fennel. Raw, fennel can be strong, but when added to the soup, it becomes a quiet undertone that lifts up all the other flavors.
At the end of cooking, I add some egg noodles, just like Mom always did. They soak up some of the stock but also give the hearty comfort that soup needs. All of these components make this soup a comfort that satisfies and nourishes.
Watch how to make this chicken noodle soup recipe:
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- 1 cup diced onion
- 2 cups chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 ½ cups chopped fennel (one bulb)
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 cup egg noodles
- 3-4 lb whole chicken
- Heat a 6- or 8-quart Dutch oven over medium heat with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 3 minutes.
- Add the carrot, celery, fennel, chicken, and thyme. Cover with 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chicken registers 165°F.
- Remove the chicken from the soup and add the egg noodles. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Separate the meat from the bones and shred. Add back to the soup to warm through and serve. Depending on the size of the chicken, add some or all of the meat and store the rest in the refrigerator for up to one week.