Photo by Flickr user I Believe I Can Fry

By now, you've no doubt stocked up on snowshoes and North Face down jackets for the impending Polar Vortex 2: The Snowpocalypse that's scheduled to hit Houston tomorrow. But before you start splitting logs for your rarely used fireplaces, swing by the grocery store and grab a few ingredients to make a simple yet sumptous chicken soup that'll get you through this latest cold front intact.

It all starts with a rotisserie chicken, found at most grocery stores for between $5 and $8. You'll also need some fresh produce and, if you don't already have it in your pantry, a few essentials such as olive oil and spices. Not only is this soup ridiculously easy to make, it's also inexpensive (and it freezes well—you may even be able to store it in your sub-Arctic backyard come Friday!).

You'll start by making a chicken stock—yes, from scratch.

Chicken Stock Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken carcass
  • 1 T. olive oil (can sub grapeseed oil, if so inclined)
  • 12 c. water
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 c. parsley
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

Preparation: 

Pick the meat from the bones of your roasted chicken (if you've got little kids, this is a great time to get them involved—their tiny fingers are made for this kind of task, plus it's messy fun). Set aside for soup. Using a cleaver or kitchen shears or your own brute strength, break the carcass down into pieces that will fit into the bottom of a stock pot. This is terrific stress relief right here. Set the bones aside when done.

Meanwhile, bring the olive oil to a medium-high heat in the bottom of your stock pot. Add your bones when the oil is hot and lightly brown them to bring out the maximum sweet, roasty, carmelized bone flavor. This shouldn't take longer than 10 minutes.

Now dump everything else into the stock pot—chopped vegetables, water, and all. Make sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot so they incorporate nicely into the stock. Put the lid on your stock pot and simmer for 90 minutes. Do not let the stock ever come to a boil. Ever.

Every once in a while, you may want to lift off the lid and skim the "scum" from the top. This is denatured protein and doesn't deserve to be called scum, and you really don't have to remove it unless you want a Donna Reed-approved, crystal clear stock. If you don't have the time to skim scum for what are purely aesthetic purposes, don't worry about it.

While your stock is simmering, go ahead and prep the veggies for your soup. Once the stock is finished, pour it into a saucepan over a fine-mesh strainer to keep out all the herbs, bones, etc. You can discard the vegetables, bones, and other materials at this point, but there are other creative uses for the vegetables (such as roasting them) if you don't like wasting food. Google it.

Soup Ingredients:

  • All that chicken meat you tore up
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 2 to 3 oz. dried egg noodles

Preparation:

This will sound familiar: you're just going to dump all of the above ingredients into your chicken stock to cook for roughly 20 minutes—all of the ingredients except for the egg noodles.

Some people will tell you to boil those separately; you can certainly do that if you prefer a "soupier" soup. I prefer to throw the noodles directly into the soup once the vegetables have gotten al dente, but before they get soft. The egg noodles will soak up that delicious chicken stock, but you'll have more of a chicken noodle "stew" at this point. If that doesn't appeal to you, boil them in salted water until al dente, then add to the soup to finish.

That's it. You're done. Now hunker down by the fire with your delicious homemade soup and think fondly of warmer months—and hurricane season. 

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