The Ever-Elusive Chicken Noodle Soup

December 28, 2010 § 6 Comments

I think the day I master the Chicken Noodle Soup I will have “made it” in my culinary exploration. It’s a dish I make often but can’t quite seem to perfect. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for new variations. I learned to love this soup from my mom creating it many times and it was used to cure many colds and disappointments throughout the years. She’s known to make a complex version that takes hours of simmering and involves hand-made egg noodles.

My husband wasn’t feeling well today so I decided to make a chicken noodle soup for him for tonight’s dinner. Recently we were at a local Cuban restaurant, Numero Uno, where I ordered a bowl of their version. As expected, it was comforting and delicious and had a strong golden yellow color, likely from saffron. I searched for a recipe that I thought would be close to this one and to my surprise, finding one was quite challenging. I even searched in Spanish “Sopa de Pollo” and didn’t find one that caught my eye. After reading a few it appeared the common theme was boiling the chicken with green pepper, onion, tomato paste, and saffron. I had never thought of tomato paste in this soup; however, recently a Cuban friend of mine told me how to make Cuban Chicken which called for tomato paste so I assumed it would be ok.

I filled the pot about half way with water (a little too much as it turned out because drops kept trickling out from under the lid) and brought to a boil. To the water I added a chopped up chicken, 2 tablespoons chicken granules, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 3/4 large chopped onion, 1/2 large green pepper, pinch of saffron, 4 garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. I debated on adding salt and pepper at this stage with the chicken granules and decided to hold until the end. I reduced the heat to medium and let it simmer away.

After an hour and a half I strained the mixture and reserved the clean broth – it was darker than the chicken soups I’ve made in the past, due to the tomato paste, but I was still confident. I added chopped potatoes and carrots and let them cook while I shredded the chicken and before the very end added some noodles. After a quick taste test I added some salt and pepper – it was still a bit off but I figured surely with all the other ingredients together it would be great.

In the end I served the shredded chicken in the bowl, added the broth with veggies and noodles, topped with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. My poor husband by this point was ravished and eager to eat. I served it proudly – sure this would be delicious and he was very impressed with the look of the soup. I sat down to reap the benefits of my 2 hours of labor, and there it was –  the taste of disappointment when you don’t know what went wrong. It had many layers of flavor, but lacked something that I still cannot put my finger on.

So, the hunt continues for the perfect bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup. If you know of a great recipe – would you please share?

Update: See my attempt at making home-made chicken broth

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