Lately, I’ve been DYING for a good, hot bowl of chicken noodle soup. Here in south Jersey, the weather this time of year has the habit of being cold, but with legitimately NO redeeming winter qualities like a picturesque, white, sparkling blanket of snow. It shouldn’t even be physically possible for unfrozen precipitation to fall here. It’s cold enough that it’s definitely not worth leaving the house unless it’s on fire, and yet it never has the decency to just NOT be raining. It’s fugly out there, but in the sense that it is frigid and ugly. So maybe it’s frugly. Frugly season calls for a creamy, full fat soup.
So here is mine.
Creamy Chicken Zoodle Soup
….With no soda on the side.
(It’s cool, I hate me too.)
- 1 c diced or shredded light and dark meat chicken
- 2 tbs ghee (or whatever high heat oil you choose. Bacon fat, chicken fat, or tallow would be great here.)
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1/2 c onion, chopped
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms (opt’l)
- 1/2 c butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ cubes (You can use sweet potato or acorn squash or kambocha squash… whatever orange winter squash or root you happen to have, you just want something with an element of sweetness that isn’t super carby
- 1/4 c frozen peas
- 1/2 c celery, chopped
- 1 lg zucchini
- 4 c chicken stock
- 6 oz cream cheese
- 4 oz Asiago cheese, grated
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 bayleaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Before you do ANYTHING, save yourself some wait time and start dehydrating the zoodles. Take your garden variety peeler, and peel long, flat sheets of zucchini until you hit the seed part in the middle (it’ll be the color and consistency of a cucumber kinda). Lay them all in a single layer over either a clean dishtowel (unless you happen to love the taste of bleach or mildew, that’s up to you, you could certainly get creative here) or a couple layers of paper towels. Salt liberally, then flip them all and salt the other sides. Cover em up with another clean dishtowel or a few more layers of paper towel, and refocus your energies on the hot stuff. (No, not me! hehe… ) These need to sit and dehydrate before they are cut to shape. As my husband would say, “This is not their final form!!!”
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium high. Add onions and mushrooms if using. (I didn’t use mushrooms in the photograph, but that is STRICTLY because I didn’t have them. To say that I was devastated doesn’t really breech the surface of the hurricane of violent emotion that swept over me…) Saute until you’re getting some really sexy caramelization goin’ on, and by that I mean look for browned bits, then add garlic. Shuffle that garlic around in there until it gets fragrant, then add cream cheese, about 1/2 c of the chicken stock, and the Asiago. Stir this around to make what looks like a bechamel sauce (if you’re not familiar with what that means, allow me to introduce you to my little friend…). Once it’s all thick and creamy, add in the rest of the chicken stock. I don’t know, you might be able to just go all out with the chicken stock from the get go, but I feel so much more professional mixing it in slowly. It comes out nice and creamy, so I figure I’ll just go with it and make you do it too. Sorry, not sorry.
- So at this point, turn the heat to medium, because you don’t want to boil dairy. If you do, you’ll end up with curds, which is fine if you’re making cheese or something, but you’re not in this case, and it’d be an awkward family dinner trying to convince your unwitting family members or significant other that you didn’t mess it up in a way that’s potentially hazardous. Add the squash, peas, and celery, and let them cook until al dente (if you’re weird) or soft (if you’re me).
- So while you’re waiting for your veggies to hit that textural sweet spot, brush the excess salt off the now-dehydrated zoodles and cut them into egg noodle shaped strips. By that, I mean about 1/4″ wide by maybe 2″ long. Don’t get crazy and whip out a ruler or anything, just eyeball it and make the pieces socially acceptable for a chicken noodle soup.
- Once your veg is almost to the texture you like, toss in the zoodles and chicken, and let the soup continue to the point where everything hits a good point of doneness. What’s that mean? I kinda alluded to it in step three, but here’s a more direct explanation. My mom likes cooked vegetables to have some crispness to them. She feels this way about any and all cooked vegetables besides baked potatoes, even if they’re in a soup, and that makes me wonder if I was adopted. I like vegetables to be cooked al dente sometimes, but DEFINITELY not in soup. Feed me like a geriatric, I want to be able to gum that nonsense. So do you. Feel it out. The only difference between crisp and gummy veggies is time, so with that in mind, the soup is your oyster.
- Once you’re happy with it, take it off the heat and finish with parsley. This is a pretty typical restaurant-style garnish, but in the case of a creamy chicken soup, I actually really like the contrast of the fresh herb against the soup itself. I haven’t tried it, but I would say you could also try finishing it with fennel fronds or dill for some different takes on it. If you do try it with fennel, I might also suggest adding a solid pound of crumbled, Italian pork sausage!! (Aaaaand here I go with another craving for a totally different soup. Gotta love these Northeastern winters!!!)