Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Simple Chicken Leg Soup with Noodles or Rice

The older I get, the more I appreciate soups. Especially if I'm not feeling well. Right now, I have had "the bug" since January 1. Cooking is not my number one priority.

Anyway, home made soups are super nutritious, fun to make, usually inexpensive, and a great excuse to clean out your fridge.

Chicken soup if my favorite, but not my favorite to make because of the clean-up. It usually involves many large bowls, sieves, utensils, picking through the meat and leftover bones and deflated veggies, not to mention peels and greasy counters and kitchen items.

So, I've been making this small-batch recipe that pushed all the bells and whistles of my desires and tastes: good soup, easy clean-up, inexpensive.

It uses the cheapest of chicken parts: legs (thighs also work, or a combo thereof). Where I shop, I have access to a 3-pack of organic chicken quarters. Rarely are they more than 4 bucks, a real bargain. I'm usually after the thighs, so, after cutting them off, I'm left with three legs. That's when I started making this soup.

I put them in a two-quart saucepan along with some veggies and let it simmer for several hours. It fills my apartment with incredible aromas I can actually inhale if I'm outside on my porch. There's really only one bone in a leg or thigh, and after several hours of simmering, the meat literally falls off the bone, so it's easy to fish out for easy removal without a sieve. The same with the veggies. 

If the strength of the broth is too weak, I add a good tablespoon of chicken Better than Bouillon. That is the ONLY brand I will use. Surprisingly, chicken legs make a superb broth. Refrigerated, it will actually gel.

I usually have the meat with the "pot gravy" for one meal then save the broth for another. For breakfast, nothing is better (or healthier) than warm broth.

When all is said and done, I basically just have a single pan to wash. That's it. EZ-PZ. Nutritious. Warming. Delicious.

My favorite way to enjoy broth is with a tiny squeeze of lemon or thin slice of peel, dried dill, and just a pinch of Cayenne or Aleppo pepper. 

Do use dried thyme leaves!!!  Feel free to use other herbs, but thyme is traditional and, in my opinion, should always be used with any chicken recipe. Dill is also nice, but add at the end when serving, not the beginning. The same with rosemary. People just love to use rosemary when making soup. It's a bad idea.  It can easily overpower your broth with a bitter taste. Use at the very end just until your broth is flavored. For roasting a chicken, use all you want when you want. If I have it, I add a thin slice of fresh ginger.

A few notes: If I want a hearty soup, I add 1-2 nests of pappardelle noodles when the soup is done.  I simply remove the pan from the burner and but in the balls of noodles, cover the pot and leave it for an hour or so during which time the noodles will lovingly swell with the flavorful broth and unfurl for real-life slurping. These are LONG noodles, hence the reason they are wrapped into a ball-like nest. Buy a good brand. You'll never go back to regular noodles. (Great for beef stews, too!)

If I don't have pappardelle noodles, other pastas work equally well. If you're really in a pinch, just break up some spaghetti. Or use washed/rinsed raw rice.

  • 3-5 chicken legs. If small, add one or two more and/or a thigh, but you may need a larger pot.
  • 1 large carrot, cleaned, sliced lengthwise, than into 2-3 inch lengths, or simply cut into medium rounds
  • 1 rib celery, roughly chopped or, into medium slices if you like it with your soup
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed, peeled, cut into a few pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme flakes (or a few fresh thyme stems with leaves)
  • If you have it, a few stems fresh parsley
  • If using, one or two nests pappardelle pasta (bronze cut) or a few tablespoons rinsed long-grain white rice
  • Kosher salt-but only at the very end
  • Chicken Better-than-Bouillion, if desired 
  • 4 cups water or just until the chicken is covered
Wash chicken well. Place in pot. Add vegetables. Add water. Bring just to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for a good two hours. Never boil your soup stock. It will cloud the broth and create a lot of scum that floats to the top. A slow simmer is all you need.

When done, taste, season with salt. Add one or two nests of pappardelle noodles. Remove from burner and allow to sit until noodles have doubled in size and are tender. Taste again for salt and pepper.

If using rice, add the rinsed rice remembering that it will double in size. Do not remove pot from burner. Place on the lowest heat setting possible and allow to cook a good 15 minutes. Shut off the heat. Keep covered. Allow to rest until rice is tender.

To serve, spoon meat portions into a bowl along with some of the veggies. Add noodles/rice. If you have it, a flurry of minced parsley is always nice.

This is plenty for a hearty two servings. For one person, you will have left overs. Simply cover the pot until cool, and place in fridge. It will keep for a few days.

An alternative fun way to serving is to remove the chicken legs prior to adding your noodles or rice. Keep as intact as possible and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a bit of Kosher salt. Keep covered and refrain from pinching off little pieces to nibble.  Finish broth to your satisfaction. To serve, place one chicken leg in the bottom side of a serving bowl. Fill with broth, noodles/rice. Serve. 

I live on the edge of a wood, so things like chicken bones never go to waste, especially in the winter. I throw them where night critters can easily easily enjoy them. 


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