If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
Other than burning Al Gore in effigy, there is no better cure for winter chills (or winter colds) than a big bowl of steaming, home-made chicken noodle soup. Everyone has their favorite recipe and insists theirs is the best. This is nonsense, of course, because Bulldog has the best recipe for homemade chicken noodle soup. Please don’t send me e-mails insisting that your recipe or your mother’s or your grandmother’s is, somehow, better – because it isn’t. As Al Gore would say, “The time for denial is over.”
2 whole frying chickens, giblets reserved
2 large carrots, cut into thirds
2 stalks of celery w/leaves cut into thirds
1 small onion, unpeeled, cut in half
1 small turnip, peeled and quartered
2 sprigs each of thyme and rosemary
1 sprig dill weed
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley w/stems, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic w/skins, crushed
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp crushed black pepper
3 large carrots, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 large onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 cup white wine
4 cartons (16-fl. oz) of chicken broth
1 package (16-oz) fine egg noodles
4 tbsp finely chopped onion chives or garlic chives
Grated Parmeggianio cheese
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Carefully clean both chickens under cold water. Discard livers and add giblets along with one of the chickens to a 10 quart or larger soup pot together with carrots, celery, onion halves, herbs and crushed garlic. Fill with spring water to within 2” of the top of the pot. Place on stove burner on high heat until boiling; reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours.
Cut up the other chicken into separate breast, wing, leg and thigh parts. Don’t discard the backbone or wing tips but add these to the soup pot. Trim as much fat off of the parts as you can and dice it up, but do not discard it. Thoroughly dry the parts with paper towels. Heat a large skillet under a high flame until very hot and then add the parts, skin side down, along with all of the reserved fat. Do not cover but use a splatter screen. Reduce heat to medium. After ten minutes, turn the chicken skin side up and cook for another ten minutes. Rotate the drumsticks to brown all sides evenly. Turn the chicken skin side down once more and cook an additional ten minutes. Transfer chicken to a large plate and remove the skin. Return the skin to the skillet to brown the undersides. When the skin is dark brown and crispy, remove and let drain on paper towels (fried chicken skin is delectable – my Jewish friends call it “Hebrew Bacon.”)
Pour off and discard chicken fat, leaving 2 or 3 tbsp in the pan. Turn heat up and deglaze pan with white wine. Add diced vegetables and lower heat to medium. Stir until liquid evaporates and onions become translucent, then reserve in a bowl.
When chicken in the pot is done, remove it to a large platter to cool (it should practically fall apart). Pour the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into another large soup pot and let sit for half an hour to allow fat to accumulate on the surface. Using a ladle, carefully skim off as much of the fat as you can and discard. Add the reserved sweated vegetables along with enough chicken broth to bring level up to 3” below top of pot. Carefully remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut into pieces no larger than an inch or so. Return chicken pieces to the soup pot and simmer on a low flame for 15 minutes. Test broth for flavor and adjust for salt and pepper to taste. Add entire package of egg noodles to the pot and stir to incorporate into broth. Turn off flame and cover pot. Stir periodically over the course of the next half hour as you set the table. By that time the noodles will be perfectly cooked.
Ladle into large soup bowls and garnish with chopped onion chives or garlic chives. Just before serving, crumble the fried chicken skins and reserve in a small bowl or timbale with a teaspoon. Also reserve a small bowl of grated Parmeggiano cheese, as this is excellent in chicken noodle soup.