In the past three weekends I’ve had the immense pleasure of:
1) hosting 2 of our favorite Los-Angelenos for a weekend of concerts & friends
2) hosting one of my bridesmaids and her fabulous boyfriend from Austin, and
3) flying SFO-NYC, driving five hours north to Lake Placid, and witnessing two of the most good natured and hilarous people I know get hitched.
It’s been a pretty special few weeks, and with the tally of free weekends we’ve had since we’ve moved here still hovering at a whopping three (….since March!….), I can’t deny the fact that though this upcoming weekend will hold no knockout dinners (Outerlands, you killed it once again), no afternoons spent drinking white sangria whilst in the grips of a fierce game of bocce (because I can’t not take a visitor to our favorite Sausalito haunt), and no tear stained napkins after one amazingly talented groom-to-be took out his guitar and sang his own flawless rendition of the most touching Avett Brother’s song while we swayed to the last of the daylight amongst the tall Adirondack pines….
It’s a weekend I am fervently anticipating.
(Major brownies points for that last one folks. Maje.)
By now I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me say how busy we’ve been (whine, whine, whiiiine!!), and trust…. I’m tired of saying it myself. But we are finally facing down the second half of a week that will be capped off with *just* a weekend – just one of the plain old vanilla kind, spent here in the city, in and around the neighborhood we now call home, and hopefully punctuated and permeated with all of those fantastic things that make a muted weekend so sweet.
Multiple walks down to the beach with the dog, a stop in at the new neighborhood bakery for a big to-go cup full of iced Stumptown coffee, a trip down and over to the Outer Sunset neighborbood to check out a noodle shop we drooled over in the September issue of Food & Wine….just a weekend full of the small pleasures that make my heart swell to it’s contented boundaries. This weekend is for an extra thirty minutes in bed, and taking a proper stab at making the pappardelle ragu in the SPQR cookbook. This weekend is a chicken noodle soup kinda weekend.
Usually ‘like grandma used to make’ signifies something utterly homey and delicious, and though this rendition of chicken noodle soup is, at it’s soul, somewhat familiar, the updates I’ve made are anything but traditional. I went and messed around with that traditional mirepoix, and sauteed onion and carrot with a heady dose of garlic and ginger in lieu of the more traditional celery. After building up a flavorful broth, I’ve added in chopped baby bok choy and slivered snow peas, and simmered the lot till the veggies were just crisp tender.
A couple of skin-on bone-in chicken breasts – roasted in the oven with plenty of kosher salt – are shredded and added to the soup, along with a big tangled pile of rice noodles, which are not only gluten free, but are a nice, somewhat lighter departure from the more traditional limp spaghetti noodle or tired egg noodle. The zest of a lemon elevates the clean flavor of the soup, and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro – stem and all – add a welcome crisp and cool crunch to your bowl. I topped mine off with a big squirt of sriracha, but this one is just as good when left plain. It is incredibly healthy, understated, and ‘clean,’ yet manages to wrap you up in a warm fuzzy blanket and make you feel instantly content.
A chicken soup weekend….I’m loving the sound of it!
Chicken Noodle Soup with Baby Bok Choy, Snow Peas & Rice Noodles in a Ginger, Garlic, and Lemon Broth
Makes about 12 cups of soup, or at least 6 meal sized servings
This is certainly a slight twist on a classic, but honestly I think it’s so good it just about always replaces the classic around here. Rice noodles are a great option for switching up your carb selection, and are also nice because they are gluten free. Feel free to play around and swap in soba noodles, egg noodles, or even broken up strands of regular old spaghetti.
*I’ve noted it below with an asterisk, but depending on how gingery you like things, use between 1 and 2″ of ginger in your soup – I like ginger, and find that around 2″ adds a warm gingery flavor without being overwhelming.
Finally, if you’re really tight on time, there is no shame in picking up an already cooked version from the grocery store. If you time it right and roast the chicken while you start the soup it doesn’t add that much more time to the final product, but you will not sacrifice too much flavor buying one that is already done for you, and I promise not to judge.
1 onion, chopped
5-6 medium sized carrots, chopped
4 heads baby bok choy, bottoms removed, leaves separated, & well rinsed
8 oz snow peas, ends trimmed
4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1-2″ of garlic, finely minced or grated*
4 cups good quality chicken broth
4 cups water
zest of one lemon
fresh cilantro, for serving
for the noodles
12oz rice noodles, fresh or dried
for the fresh roast chicken
2 large bone-in & skin-on chicken breasts (roughly 1 1/3 – 1 1/2 lbs)
First, preheat your oven to 400F and prepare to roast the chicken. Season the chicken on all sides with a very generous amount of kosher salt – use more than you think you need, as you will be discarding the skin and it is OK if the skin is overly salty (we need the salt to penetrate through the skin and flavor the meat, so be sure to use a slightly heavy hand). Roast the chicken, skin side up, until the skin is crisped and brown and the meat is cooked through, around 25-30 minutes. Place the chicken to the side.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rice noodles until they are just tender – this will only take a minute or two, and be careful not to overcook, lest you risk them getting gummy. Drain them, and rinse them well under cool water to stop the cooking and prevent them from glomming together too much. Reserve them to the side.
While the chicken & noodles are cooking, start your soup. In a large heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat, heat enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook the onion, without letting it color, till it just starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add in the chopped carrots and a good three finger pinch of salt, and let the vegetables cook, stirring occasionally, till the carrot just starts to become tender and lose it’s raw edge, another 3 – 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and ginger, and cook till the garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Pour in the broth and the water, raise the heat to medium-high, add another pinch of kosher salt, and bring the pot to a simmer.
While the soup comes to a simmer, chop your snow peas on the diagonal and slice your bok choy horizontally into thin bite-sized strips (both stalks and leaves). When the broth is simmering, add in the sliced bok choy and snow peas. Allow the mixture to simmer another 10 minutes, till the veggies are tender but still have just a bit of crispness to them (you don’t want mushy veggies). While the veggies cook, peel the salty skin away from the chicken breasts and discard. Shred the meat using two forks, leaving it in bite-sized yet still-sizeable chunks.
When the veggies are tender, taste the broth and adjust seasoning levels – I added a bit more salt here for the best flavor. Take the soup off of the heat, stir in the lemon zest, and add in the cooked & shredded chicken and the drained and rinsed noodles. Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with whole sprigs of fresh cilantro.