Given the question, “if you were stranded on a desert island and got to pick one thing to eat for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?” I, with no hesitation, no shadow of doubt in my mind, would choose Chicken Noodle Soup.

Why?  Because day or night, homemade or condensed, it never fails to  make me happy. Weird secret:  I always keep a can hidden somewhere in the kitchen…right in front of the emergency chocolate stash and behind the emergency coffee stash. You just never know in this crazy world!

When you have the time though, homemade really is the best. Yes, it takes the better part of the day, but really, what else are you going to do on a frigid Saturday in January?

So here it is, my favorite food:

Chicken Noodle Soup

*Note: This is one of those recipes I make so often it’s different every time so bear with me on all the “use this…or that…or one of those.”  If you put in enough of the main ingredients plus love and salt, it never fails to be downright awesome. I’ve even left out the chicken…still awesome.*

1 small chicken, 3 chicken breasts, or 2 cups pre-cooked shredded chicken (optional)

2 tbsp margarine or vegetable oil

1 onion chopped + (1 roughly chopped if roasting)

3-5 carrots chopped (+ 2 roughly chopped if roasting)

3-4 stalks celery chopped (+2 roughly chopped if roasting)

3 cloves garlic crushed (+ 2 whole if roasting)

½ cup chopped parsley

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 Knorr chicken or vegetable bouillon cube

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1-2 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh thyme

1-2 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh rosemary (optional)

2-4 bay leaves

½ lb extra-wide egg noodles (or GF if you want!)

Salt and pepper…lots

Quick way:  Sauté chicken and vegetables in large pot, continue below where relevant.

Long way:  My new favorite way, and the method I used this time, is roasting a whole small chicken. I can’t lie, it takes a lot of time, but everything gets that rich roasted flavor. Plus you can do it a whole day in advance if you’ d like AND you end up with extra chicken!

Step 1: Flavoring

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Rub the chicken in butter or margarine and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Place in a roasting pan filled with about an inch of water and add your extra vegetables.

Cover and using a meat thermometer, bake until it reaches 180.  When you think it has about 20 minutes or less to go, around 150 in my case, remove the cover and let the top brown.

Step 2: Simmering

Set chicken aside to cool and work on chopping up all the vegetables that are actually going to go in the soup.  Place all the vegetables, herbs, and bouillon cube in a pot and add broth and bring to boil.  While that is heating up, get to work on that chicken.

That’s my rosemary tree.  Isn’t it cute?  There used to be two, but I’m notorious for plant neglect so now there’s just one.

Back to chicken. First, make sure it’s cool to the touch.  Remove it from the roasting pan. Pour the broth from the bottom of the pan into the soup leaving the veggies behind to be dumped (or if you’re really green, use for compost). Remove and shred 2 cups of breast meat from chicken.  Add to soup.  Continue removing as much good meat from the chicken as possible and save for sandwiches. You’ll love finding fresh roasted chicken in your fridge later, trust me.

Once you’re all done place the main part of the chicken carcass back in the soup.  If you need to, add more water to cover.  Salt and pepper to taste.

MMM chicken carcass…so gross, but a treasure chest of flavor.

HINT:  The best mantra for salting soup, (that I shamelessly stole from some lecture completely unrelated to soup) is: “Start low and go slow.” The vegetables absorb the salt as the soup cooks making it difficult to gage how salty a soup will taste if you add the salt all at once.  Therefore, to prevent over or under salting, start with a small amount of salt, taste test frequently, and keep adding it in small doses as the soup cooks, so by the end you’ve got just the right amount.

Step 3.  Clean up

Wash your hands…dissecting chicken is a messy job. I suggest washing the dishes while you wait.  At this point your house will be positively radiating good smells, so you’ll need something to keep you distracted.  Plus it’s always nice to sit down to dinner with the kitchen already clean.

Step 4.  Finishing the soup

After about a half hour, or after you’ve dissected a chicken and done the dishes, all the vegetables should be soft.  Taste test to determine if you need more salt.  Skim the top of the soup for excess oil and foam. Remove the chicken carcass and as many of the bay leaves as you can fish out. Skim again for foam. Add the noodles and cook for another 15 minutes or so until soft. Taste test one last time for salt.  Turn off the heat.

Step 5.

Bowl.  Crackers.  Blanket.  ‘Nuff said.

Step 6.  If you’re not going to eat it all in the next few days, put some in the freezer. A good surprise weeks later after you’ve forgotten about it…or two days later when the first batch is already gone.

Stay warm! Eat soup!