I’m a soup snob. A “snoup.”
Homemade chicken noodle soup was one of the first things I made once I was living on my own, and I was really impressed with myself. A whole pot of hot food. And I had made it all by myself.
Fast forward nine years later (Nine? Yikes.) and I am still impressing myself with boiling hot pots of homemade soup. I make soup weekly (sometimes more than once a week), because it is delicious, nutritious, and provides several meals worth of food. Also, soup has so much creative potential, it’s almost magical. You can put (almost) anything in a pot, cook it, and call it soup. It’s incredible.
My signature chicken noodle soup recipe has evolved, thanks to many years of tweaking. I still like a basic chicken noodle soup when someone is sick, but when everyone is healthy and hungry, I like a sexier version of the original. I’ll substitute orzo for noodles and add lemon juice right at the end. I call it, “Mama’s Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup,” because I made it up and can call it whatever I want.
The soup base is from scratch, I always use a rotisserie chicken carcass for the broth. This requires some carcass-cleaning up-front, so if you’re squeamish about this, ask a friend to help you or just sack up. I’m a former vegan and after a few times of doing it, I’m like elbow-deep in that thing, just ripping it to shreds.
Once you’ve got the bird cleaned, you boil the carcass and skin in a soup sack for an hour-and-a-half, add the pasta and lemon, and you’re done. It’s seriously that easy, and I promise nobody will ever know. Tonight, I used a carcass leftover from last night’s chicken enchiladas – the meat was minimal, but just enough to give the soup some bulk. The taste is clean and bright, thanks to the lemon, and hearty and filling thanks to the chicken stock. I always serve this with crusty bread for dipping and a side salad. And a glass of wine never hurts, either.
Mama’s Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
(makes 4 dinner-sized servings or 6 appetizer-sized servings)
1 rotisserie chicken, cleaned; meat separated from bones and skin
1 soup bag
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 large carrot, un-peeled, sliced
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
8-9 cups of chicken broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup orzo
juice of four lemons, plus zest from 1 lemon
1. Make stock: Clean meat from rotisserie chicken, set aside. Collect bones and skin and remaining carcass into soup sack, tie closed. Place in large stock pot. Add onions, celery, carrot and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat, add bay leaf. Simmer for an hour-and-a-half to two hours, until vegetables are tender.
2. Remove soup sack and discard. Add orzo and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 7 to 9 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Add chicken meat, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Reduce heat to low, add lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring. Serve hot with crusty bread for dipping and wine for sipping!