Saturday, November 17, 2012

Midwestern Memories: Chicken and Noodles

I made the BEST pot of chicken and noodles for dinner tonight, which is really saying something, as I've been making some version of this dish for almost 20 years now! I was first introduced to chicken and noodles in 1993 by my sweet friend, Karen, who made it for me and our other roommates when we were living together in a big house in Kankakee, Illinois. And I'm sad to say that, after I moved away to Utah and then to New York, that there was a long stretch where I couldn't replicate the exact recipe, because I couldn't find Reame's frozen noodles anywhere outside the Midwest. But thankfully, Walmart has started carrying them for the past couple of years. Of course, you can use a different kind of noodle or make your own (which I had to do for years, in the absence of Reame's), but it's really not the same.

Now, there are several ways to do this, of course, including doing it all on the stove top or all in the crock pot. But I have devised a hybrid methodology that works well for me. I also like to split the prep over two days, doing some of it a day ahead. But you needn't. Here's my favorite way of making this hearty, comforting dish...

Gina's Chicken and Noodles

1 whole chicken
4 quarts chicken broth, divided
1 tablespoon chicken soup base (or to taste)
1 onion, peeled and cut in eighths
2 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 family-size can cream of chicken soup
1 24 oz. package Reame's frozen egg noodles
2 cups cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

(I do this the night before I want to have chicken and noodles.) Place the chicken along with two quarts of broth, the soup base, the veggies, and the bay leaves and peppercorns in the crock pot. Cook for about four hours on high (or all day/overnight on low). When the chicken is tender, remove it from the crock pot and refrigerate. Strain the stock through a sieve, then refrigerate that, too.

The next day, de-fat the cooked and chilled stock, then combine it with the other two quarts of broth, and bring all the liquid to a boil in a large stock pot. Whisk in the cream of chicken soup until mostly smooth and return to a boil. Add in the frozen noodles and bring back to a boil, stirring to separate. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the noodles are sufficiently tender.

Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and break the meat into large chunks. When the noodles are tender, stir in the chicken, the cream, and the fresh parsley, and cook on low until heated through (don't boil). Correct the seasonings if necessary, then serve piping hot in large bowls.

*If you want the authentic Midwestern carbo-loading experience, serve over homemade mashed potatoes.

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