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The best chicken soup is built on a soild foundation. Make sure you follow these 5 tips to ensure a stellar soup.
1. Sauté Aromatics
The first step in making many soups is sautéing aromatic vegetables such as onion and garlic. Sautéing not only softens their texture so that there is no unwelcome crunch in the soup, it also tames any harsh, stinging flavors. Medium heat is usually a good temperature for sautéing.
2. Start with Good Stock
Commercial store-bought broth is a convenient option for soup making, but just about any soup benefits from being made with homemade stock. This is especially true of brothy soups where the chicken flavor takes center stage. Store-bought broth works better in soups with other liquid ingredients (such as cream or canned tomatoes) or soups with lots of spices or other potent ingredients.
3. Cut the Vegetables the Right Size
Improperly cut vegetables results in unevenly cooked vegetables -- some pieces will be underdone and crunchy while others are soft and mushy. Cutting the vegetables to the size specified in the recipe ensures that the pieces will all be perfectly cooked.
4. Simmer, Don't Boil
There is a fine line between simmering and boiling, and it can make a big difference in your soups. A simmer is a restrained version of a boil; fewer bubbles break the surface and do so with less vigor. Simmering heats foods through more gently and more evenly than boiling; boiling can cause vegetables such as potatoes to break apart or fray at the edges and can toughen meat, too.
5. Season Before Serving
In general, we add salt, pepper, and other seasonings, such as delicate herbs and lemon juice, after cooking, just before serving. The saltiness of the stock and other ingredients, such as canned tomatoes or beans, can vary greatly, so it's always best to taste the soup once the soup is complete, just before ladling it into bowls for serving.
READY TO COOK? Enjoy our step-by-step recipe tutorial for Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup, free for Yahoo! Shine readers through March 17, 2013. In our full Best Chicken Soups course, available to enrolled online cooking school students, we teach you everything you need to know, from the seven steps to good stock to stocking up on essential equipment, to knowing exactly when it's acceptable to use supermarket stock instead of homemade stock.
OLD-FASHIONED CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
Why This Recipe Works: For a full-flavored chicken soup recipe that we could make without taking all day, we began by browning a cut-up chicken to set the foundation for a flavorful base. Sweating most of the browned pieces (we reserved the breast meat for shredding into the soup) with an onion allowed the meat to release its flavorful juices quickly. Then we added water and simmered just 20 minutes longer. We cooked the breast meat in the broth to infuse both with flavor and keep the meat moist. Egg noodles (also cooked right in the broth), celery, carrot, onion, thyme, and parsley rounded out our classic recipe.
Serves 6 to 8
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (4-pound) whole chicken, breast removed, split, and reserved; remaining chicken cut into 2-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
8 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chicken fat, reserved from making stock, or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
1 celery rib, sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 ounces egg noodles
1⁄4 cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
1. FOR THE STOCK: Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer cooked chicken to bowl and repeat with remaining chicken pieces; transfer to bowl with first batch. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken pieces to pot. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.
2. Increase heat to high; add boiling water, reserved chicken breast pieces, salt, and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors have blended, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove breast pieces from pot. When cool enough to handle, remove skin from breasts, then remove meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces; discard skin and bones. Strain stock through fine-mesh strainer; discard solids. Allow liquid to settle, about 5 minutes, then skim off fat; reserve 2 tablespoons, if desired (see note).
4. FOR THE SOUP: Heat reserved chicken fat in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and reserved stock and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Add noodles and reserved shredded chicken and cook until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. (After skimming broth in step 3, shredded chicken, strained stock, and fat can be refrigerated in separate containers for up to 2 days.)
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