Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles
SoupAddict saw a recipe last year that really spoke to her. It’s blustery, snowy winter here, and things warm and thick and comforting are highly prized. And in SoupAddict’s world, things that are warm and thick and comforting often come in the form of soup. Soup is love in a bowl, is SoupAddict’s philosophy. (That, and “bacon is love on a plate.”)
That recipe featured chicken noodle soup — probably the all-time best meal when you’re feeling like you need a hug from the world. And a hug from the world sounds like a pretty good thing down in the depths of January, yessiree.
Being smart and clever peeps, you probably noticed “Slow Cooker” in the title, along with the photo of SoupAddict’s Crock Pot above, and have already put 2 and 2 together — i.e., that this will be a slow cooker recipe. The original chicken noodle soup recipe was not one for the slow cooker (nor is it really a soup, but rather soup’s close and personal friend, Stew). But as SoupAddict was writing out her grocery shopping list for this recipe, she noticed the Crock Pot that has been sitting on her counter since Christmas. And [ding!] a light clicked on, and suddenly SoupAddict’s brain got to working—popping, pinging, and spewing a little exhaust in the process—and pretty soon she had a plan for a slow cooker version of Crock Pot chicken and noodles.
Chicken and noodle soup is really not chicken and noodle soup without carrots and celery and something from the onion family.
SoupAddict’s leek garden is still snuggled happily in its winter home in the backyard. Look at those roots! If SoupAddict had to live out in 16° weather, she’s certain her roots would not be so vibrant. Nonetheless, SoupAddict needed a shovel and a parka and someone to work the shovel while she wore the parka to free one leek from the frozen ground. But, lacking that, she persevered and successfully procured the leek, just before her fingers succumbed to frostbite. Who knew gardening could be so dangerous?
But, home-grown veggies are ever so lovely, frost-bite or not. This leek was just beautiful and delicious. If you’ve never grown veggies before, SoupAddict encourages you to make 2011 the Year of the Home Vegetable Garden.
Look at these gorgeous beauties. SoupAddict is always amazed that such wonderfulness grows right out of the ground.
SoupAddict is preparing this dish on a weekend, so she is using bone-in split chicken breasts and bone-in thighs. If you’re preparing this while you’re away for the day, use boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs. You’ll be thankful later when you’re not stripping meat off the bone after working your own fingers to the bone. SoupAddict always seasons her chicken with salt before cooking. For even more flavorful chicken, let the seasoned chicken spend the night in the fridge.
Mmmmmm … herbs and spices. The orange powder on the left is turmeric. It will give the dish that traditional deep yellow color. Fresh thyme leaves (SoupAddict pinched off a few branches of thyme after she finished wrestling the leek), oregano, white or black pepper and salt go right in the pot.
Since SoupAddict is using water rather than broth, she also added some chicken base to the liquid.
Just a tablespoon in a quart of boiling water will do a body good. Everything goes into the slow cooker for a 6 to 8 hour stint (SoupAddict can also say, “Crock Pot” without being sued by Crock Pot, since she is actually using a Crock Pot. However, if you do not have a Crock Pot brand slow cooker, please be sure to mentally cross out all instances of “Crock Pot” herein, replacing them with “slow cooker,” so that the Crock Pot lawyers do not come after you for trademark infringement. Whew! SoupAddict needs a Kleenex after all that.)
Since SoupAddict is making this on a day when she was home, she used bone-in chicken. About 3/4ths of the way through the total cooking time, remove the chicken from the Crock Pot to a cutting board. Look at that yellow skin! That’s from the turmeric, lovely, healthy turmeric. If you’ve used boneless chicken, just leave it all intact, in the noodle soup, until the very end.
Remove the skin, discard, and use two forks to pull the meat from the bones. Discard the bones … or, if you’re feeling extra motivated, you can actually put the more substantial bones back into the pot and let them continue to cook. Just remember to remove them before serving.
Mm, bony. (And did SoupAddict actually discard the tender, seasoned chicken skin? She’ll never [chomp] tell [nom nom].)
While the chicken’s waiting to go back in its lovely seasoned Crock Pot bath, SoupAddict adds some thickening agents. Take some flour …
… and add several tablespoons of liquid chicken goodness from the Crock Pot. Stir until it forms a nice, thick, paste. Your paste should not be blurry. SoupAddict’s was, but it still worked fine.
Add the paste to the stew in the Crock Pot and stir to combine thoroughly. Then add the chicken back to the Crock Pot.
SoupAddict loves Reames frozen egg noodles. They’re just brilliant, especially in this slow cooker chicken noodle soup.
Make sure your stew is still nice and hot before adding the frozen noodles. No need to thaw; the stew will take care of that right quick.
Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles
Adapted for the slow cooker from here
2 lbs. chicken (I used 1 bone-in split chicken breast and several bone-in thighs)
2 whole carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 leek, diced (white and light green parts only)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (more to taste)
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed (discard stem) OR 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons parsley flakes
1 quart water, very, very hot (plus more as needed) OR 1 quart chicken stock, unheated (plus additional water as needed)
1 tablespoon chicken base, if you’re using water instead of broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
16 ounces frozen egg noodles
Place the chicken, vegetables, herbs and spices (including salt) in the slower cooker and turn to LOW. If using water, mix the chicken base into the hot water. Pour the water/chicken base or chicken stock into the slow cooker. Add water as needed to ensure that the chicken is covered by the liquid.* Cover and let it do its thang for 6 to 8 hours.
If you’re home and you used bone-in chicken, remove all the chicken from the cooker at about the 4-5 hour mark. Remove the skin (if not skinless) and use two forks to pull the chicken apart and remove the bones. Otherwise, do this same step at the 6 hour mark, or as soon as possible after that. For boneless chicken, use two forks to pull the chicken into shreds. Set side.
Place the flour in a small mixing bowl and add 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, stirring to form a thick paste. Add this paste to the slow cooker and mix well to combine. Then add the chicken back the to cooker, along with any large, easily spottable-and-removable bones (for extra flavor). Cover and allow to continue cooking.
20 minutes before serving, add the frozen noodles to the cooker and turn heat to HIGH to help offset the cold temperature that the noodles will introduce. When noodles are cooked through, taste and adjust seasonings to suit. (Don’t forget to remove the bones, if you had re-added them back earlier.)
*The amount of liquid you need will vary according to the size and shape of your chicken pieces. I usually don’t need more than 4 cups, but don’t be surprised if you need 5. Remember, the more liquid you add, the more soupy it will be. If you want it thick, stick to the 4 cups.