We were both coming down with minor colds after Thanksgiving Holidays once Chicago weather suddenly changed from a relatively balmy 60 degrees to a high of 35. The fairly dramatic shift occurring before the holiday shopping season and the busy end of the semester meant that we had to nip this little cold in the bud. When I asked Will what he fancied for dinner, he requested Chicken Soup.
Just about every culture or region seems to have some sort of comfort food that includes chicken: the Jewish matzo ball soup with chicken broth, southern U.S.’s chicken and dumpling, Mexican chicken tortilla soup, Chinese chicken congee. [Koreans also have their equivalent of the congee: dak (chicken) juk (porridge), and I will write about that in another post.] Especially when feeling a bit “under the weather,” the body craves—and flourishes under—the soothing combination of hot broth, stewed chicken, and a starch of some type. Will and I are no exceptions. We wanted that chicken noodle soup.
Having discarded the remaining half bag of fine egg noodles just two days ago—in a last-ditch effort to clean out the kitchen cabinets in preparation for a weekend of cooking and hosting—I lit upon a different chicken soup variety. Since I recently purchased a package of spaetzle (tiny flour dumplings, sometimes made with eggs), I decided to make a mock quick version of Southern chicken and dumplings.
This was a completely improvised dish—just relying on my experience in making similar soups—so the recipe could use some tweaking. It did hit the spot though, and we will return to this recipe the next time we want a little more special version of the traditional chicken noodle soup.
Since I used no item I had to make a trip outside to purchase, this was a very convenient soup to make. I already had roast chicken and caramelized corn left over from Thanksgiving dinner, and the other items were in the pantry (chicken broth, saffron, spaetzle) or the fridge (carrot, onion, peas). Of course, if these are not the items you have around the house, then you should definitely substitute and create your own version.
Ingredients (to serve 4-6):
2 ½ quarts chicken broth (a quart of this could be water)
½ t saffron threads
½ roast chicken (about 2 lbs)
1 large carrot sliced
1 medium onion sliced
2 cups uncooked spaetzle (from a package)
½ cup cooked or frozen corn
½ cup frozen green peas
salt and pepper to taste
(chives or sliced scallions for garnish optional)
1. Set a large soup pot over medium-high heat and bring 2 ½ quarts of chicken broth (and water, if using) to a boil. Once the broth comes to a boil, add saffron threads, ½ roast chicken parts, sliced carrot and onion, and the spaetzle. Reduce heat to low or medium-low once the soup comes to a boil again, and simmer for about 25 minutes for the spaetzle to cook.
Note: We wanted a soup that was slightly thickened with the spaetzle cooking together with the liquid. If you prefer a thinner or clearer broth, boil spaetzle separately according to package directions (usually 25-30 minutes) and then just add the cooked and drained spaetzle to the soup after the other ingredients have simmered at least 15 minutes together.
2. Leave the rest of the soup on the heat, but take chicken parts out of the soup and shred meat from bones. Discard skin, and put meat back in the soup. Add corn and peas at this point and cook for another 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, ladle into deep bowls with a garnish of your choice. Cracking some more black pepper at the table intensifies the flavor of the soup.
If you are not going to consume all of the soup right away, do remember that the spaetzle (or rice or noodles or dumplings or whatever you use) will continue to absorb the excess liquid as it sits in the fridge. When you reheat, be prepared to add more liquid (water or broth) to make the soup of the consistency you’d like.