Cooking can be very frustrating when things don’t work out as planned. Last week I was so excited about finding fresh cranberry beans at my local market I had to pick some up. Along with that I picked up some kielbasa, a chicken, and some basics: onions, carrots, celery, herbs etc. It was unseasonably cool, and I had in mind a one-pot meal of braised chicken with pork and beans. Well, I won’t go into the gory details, but it wasn’t one of my best laid out plans. My estimated cooking times for all the different ingredients were off – a very important factor if they are all going into the same pot, I might add – and I ended up with undercooked beans, and dry, bland, chicken. Well, all the stereotypical temperamental chefs came to life in my kitchen that evening – so much so that I heard the boyfriend whisper to Sadie, “Leave mama alone, it’s not safe in the kitchen right now.” When I was through throwing my tantrum, I wrapped the chicken up and put it in the fridge, finished cooking the beans through, then seared some slices of kielbasa, and fried a couple of eggs. We ended up having mediocre but edible Kielbasa and Beans with Fried Eggs for dinner.
The one positive result of that evening was that I managed to use all the chicken carcasses I had stored up in my freezer to make a giant batch of chicken stock. It really came in really handy a couple days later, when the boyfriend came down with a cold and a bad sore throat. Cheers! Chicken soup to the rescue. I love a good chicken noodle soup, and having fresh chicken stock, and leftover chicken in the fridge always makes quick work of it. I didn’t have any egg noodles in my pantry, but I did have eggs, flour, and milk to make Spaetzle instead. It was so quick and easy, I don’t think that my Chicken Soup will ever see another dried egg noodle.
Fresh Spaetzle & Chicken Soup
INGREDIENTS, makes about 3 quarts
3-4 Tbsp. neutral oil (such as canola or grapeseed)
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 clove of garlic minced
2 quarts chicken stock, preferably unsalted
a bouquet garni of fresh thyme, oregano, and a bay leaf, tied together with twine or bound in cheesecloth
salt and pepper
the meat of one 3-4 lb. chicken, cooked, skin and bones removed, and cut into 1/2″ chunks
For the Spaeztle:
1/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup flour (6 oz. by weight)
A stockpot with a fitted steamer insert or a metal/heatproof colander that will rest on the rim of your soup pot.
1. Combine the carrots and celery and a couple tablespoons of oil in a tall 8 quart stockpot. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, and additional oil if needed to coat the onions, and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
2. Add the chicken stock and herbs, then turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the celery and carrots are almost cooked through.
3. Meanwhile make the spaetzle batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and spices. Then add the flour and mix with a whisk or spoon until uniform. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
4. When the vegetables are close to cooked through, transfer the spaeztle batter the colander or steamer insert. Place the steamer insert in the stockpot, or if you are using a colander, rest it on rim of the stockpot. There should be a couple inches of space between the bottom of the insert/colander and the liquid. Turn the soup to high and using your rubber spatula, push the batter through the holes of the colander so the pieces drop into the boiling soup. It will only take a minute or so for the spaeztle to float to the surface – a good indication that they are cooked. When you think you have enough noodles, simply remove the insert/colander and discard any remaining batter.
5. Add the cooked chicken to the pot and bring everything back to a boil, just to warm the chicken through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The recipe calls for a generous amount of chicken stock to account for the liquid absorbed by cooking the spaeztle directly in the soup. I prefer this method only because the starch adds body to the soup the same way adding pasta cooking water to sauces does. You may prefer to cook your spaeztle in a separate pot of salted water to have better control over the cooking process.
This recipe is best made with homemade Chicken Stock.