Last week I boiled a whole fryer chicken to make chicken stock and, of course, to use the shredded chicken in the soup. It was an eye opening first time experience. Not only did I get pure homemade chicken stock which tasted great, I got a few pounds of moist shredded chicken. While boneless skinless chicken breasts seem to be an American favorite, chicken on the bone retains so much more flavor. In the past, I have boiled chicken breasts and shredded them for chicken salad, chicken enchiladas or other quick meals. But always the boiled chicken breasts yielded dry bland chicken…no longer will I waste my time or money doing that! This little whole chicken fryer provided me plenty of moist dark and white meat for my soup. It came off of the bone so easily and was so unbelievably tender. In the midst of my joy of cleaning tender juicy chicken off the bone, I declared to whichever family members were listening to me, “I am just going to boil one of these little suckers every week.” How convenient to keep a tupperware of shredded chicken in the fridge for quick additions to meals like a green salad, a whole grain salad or even a quick quesadilla or taco! This is such a healthier option than buying the bags of pre-cooked or “grilled” chicken strips. My mind went immediately to summer time when we are often coming home from the pool at 6:00 and wanting to eat dinner soon after we get home. Having some precooked shredded tender chicken would go a long way to making a quick, tasty and healthy family dinner.
Classic Chicken Noodle Soup made with Homemade Chicken Stock (Serves 8-10)
1 whole fryer chicken (appx 5 lbs)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced (plus extra for stock)
1 ½ cup diced celery (plus extra for stock)
1 ½ cup diced carrots (plus extra for stock)
1 tsp minced garlic (plus extra for stock)
8 oz whole wheat egg noodles (to keep it CLEAN, omit noodles altogether or substitute a whole grain like barley or farro)
salt and fresh ground pepper
fresh thyme sprigs (some for stock and some for soup)
fresh parsley (plus stems for stock)
Place whole chicken in large soup pot and cover with cold water. As the liquid is brought to a boil, skim off the foam as it rises. Lower the stock to a simmer and add aromatic elements (1/2 an onion, a few carrots, a few stalks of celery, 2 crushed garlic cloves, stems of any herbs such as parsley or thyme) and simmer for about 2 hours, skimming foam when need be.
After about two hours, carefully remove the whole chicken and let cool on cutting board. Strain the stock carefully to strain off the aromatic elements and excess chicken pieces or bones. Set stock aside for soup or let cool and refrigerate if not using immediately (you are likely to get about 1 ½ – 2 quarts of stock). When chicken is cooled slightly, remove the meat from the bones. Set aside. You should get some great pieces of white and dark meat for your soup.
In dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic and sautee for 5-7 minutes to soften. Add stock, chicken, salt and pepper and 3-4 sprigs of thyme to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn heat up a bit so soup is at a low boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper (you may need more salt than you would think since you are using homemade not salted stock). Remove thyme sprigs, garnish with fresh parsley and/or thyme and serve immediately.