Now, not just ANY chicken soup, mind you. This is the soup my friend Jennifer brought me right after Baby J was born late last fall. I should clarify: after Baby J arrived three weeks early amid a house being packed up for a move. Yes, I was moving a couple of weeks before my due date. With a two-year-old. Crazy, I know. I get that nesting instinct, but ON STEROIDS. Anyway, there I was packing away compulsively when my water broke. This was a huge shock since C-Man had been almost 2 weeks late (and he only came because the acupuncturist basically induced my labor). So, anyway, I was sort of *foolishly* counting on being late again. Certainly, not early!
Panic of the highest form set it. My life was in boxes, I had no diapers, the infant seat was packed away in the attic still, there was no bassinet to speak of, I hadn't been practicing deep breathing (procrastinator, I am.). We didn't know if she was going to be a boy or girl, so only very few unisex clothes had been pulled from C-Man's boxes. The horror, people. I am not one to come unprepared to anything, most of all the birth of my daughter!
But, like most stories, everything went fine (actually, wonderfully), and there we were just a day or two later back at the house with our beautiful baby girl (dad and brother-in-law were kind enough to move all the boxes out of the house, mom cleaned, shopped and set up a temporary living space for us, sisters spoiled and doted over C-Man). Friends got to work on the most important task at hand: making us meals.
Now, in my world, there simply is no greater show of love than a home-cooked meal when you are home bonding with your new baby and the hunger from breastfeeding has taken over your entire being. Plus, there are the factors of a sleep-deprived husband and displaced toddler who need food and love too. Your true friends appear with pasta and bread and salads and cookies and casseroles and cake and (my personal favorite) soup.
One particular soup was brought to me by the lovely Jennifer. Chicken Noodle, but oh, so much more than your average chicken noodle. Something about it made me (and the rest of the family) go crazy. In a good way. We ate it up, we made more, and more, and more. It just hit the spot like nothing else. I have made chicken soup my whole life and never felt that anything was missing, until I had Jennifer's. Now, it is the only version I make. And it is the version friends and family always request. Jennifer is a very thoughtful person...she even included a copy of the recipe with that big pot of soup on that cool November evening. And here it is for you all.
I admit, I'm not quite sure what makes this soup different and better than the rest, but just trust me. Follow the recipe, and it's perfect.
Jennifer's Make a Mama Happy Chicken Noodle Soup
16 c. chicken broth (4 cartons)
1 3 1/2 lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced (or just buy a bag of organic baby carrots and chop those up)
2-3 celery stalks (with leaves), chopped
2 T. butter
1 T. fresh lemon juice (this is critical -- don't forget to add it)
12 oz. dried wide egg noodles (use the pappardelle from Trader Joe's)
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh parsley (I used dill today as the squirrels ate my parsley plant!)
Combine broth and chicken in a large heavy pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 20 mins. (I like to cook it a lot longer so the chicken is almost falling off the bone, but I know some people don't like it that way). Using tongs, transfer chicken to a large bowl. After chicken has cooled slightly, pull off the skin and bones (discard) and shred the meat.
Return broth to a simmer. Add carrots and celery. Simmer until vegetables soften, about 8 mins.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until beginning to wilt, about 5 mins. Add onions to broth and vegetables. Stir in lemon juice. Add noodles and chicken and simmer until noodles are done (about 5 mins.). Stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Soothe your soul. And your little sister with morning sickness.