♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Today on "Cook's Country," I'm making the fastest batch of old-fashioned chicken noodle soup, Toni is taking us back in time to tell us the history of chicken noodle soup, Jack's telling us everything we need to know about store-bought broth, and Christie's making beer-batter cheese bread.
It's all right here, on "Cook's Country."
♪♪ ♪♪ Most of us have had canned chicken noodle soup, especially when we're under the weather or a little tight on time.
But its flavor doesn't hold a candle to homemade soup.
The broth is tinny.
There's a meager amount of chicken, and it's dried out, and the noodles are blown out and mushy.
So, today I'm going to show you an easy way to make a big batch of homemade chicken noodle soup.
And it starts, not surprisingly, with the chicken.
Now, here I have a pound and a half of bone-in chicken, and the bone-in part matters because the bones in the skin are going to lend valuable flavor to the broth.
Now you can use all white meat, if you like, or all dark meat.
I like using a combination because I like the white meat in the soup, but I love the flavor that that thigh meat really adds to the broth.
We're just going to pat it dry with paper towels.
This looks pretty good and dry.
We're going to season it with just a little bit of salt and pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon of each, right on both sides.
So that's it for the chicken.
And now here I have a nice, big soup pot on medium high heat, and there's a tablespoon of vegetable oil in there, heating up, and it's shimmering, which lets you know it's time to brown the chicken.
Now we're going to add this chicken to the pot.
We're going to brown this chicken for 8 to 10 minutes, and this is not a step that you want to skimp on because the browning in the pot adds important flavor to the broth.
While that chicken is browning, it's time to chop up the vegetables, and you can really put any old vegetable into chicken noodle soup, but today, I'm doing the classic -- onion, carrot, and celery.
And we're just going to chop this up into bite-size pieces, you know, pieces that will fit on a spoon.
And to cut an onion, I'm going to cut off the top of it, and I cut it through that root end.
That helps all the layers hang together while you chop it.
I'm going to slice it three times to make a nice fine dice.
The first time I slice it, it is towards the root end.
The second time, I going to hold my fingers on top of the onion, keep them out of the way.
And now we'll go down.
Having a sharp knife really is important if you want to have good knife skills.
It makes cooking so much more fun if your knife is sharp.
Let's take a look at this chicken.
Oh, see that?
That's the browning we're looking for.
See that golden on the skin, and it's also leaving some golden on the bottom of the pot.
Actually, the pot's getting a little hot, so I'm going to turn it down.
I'm going to flip the chicken over, let it brown a little bit on that second side.
And now it's time to chop up some celery.
Just one rib celery is all you need.
We're going to cut it into 1/2-inch pieces.
I like seeing pieces of vegetable on my soup spoon, so I'm not going to mince it too fine.
I used to hate celery.
I used to think celery had no flavor, but something happened in the past few years.
I love celery now.
I don't know if it's something that happens at some age.
You like big, gaudy jewelry, bright lipstick, and celery.
I don't know if it's an age definer.
But, man, I love celery now.
Nice big pieces.
Last but not least, a carrot.
Again, just one carrot's all you need.
Definitely should peel it first.
We're just going to cut it into rustic 1/2-inch pieces.
Rustic is another name for "not precise."
I like rustic food.
It suits me.
Suits my style.
So I'm going to cut the bottom half, the skinny part of the carrot in half.
And the top half, the thicker half, I'm going to cut into quarters.
That way, all the carrots will be roughly the same size, and that is it for vegetable prep.
Now let's take a look at this chicken.
It is beautiful.
You see that gorgeous brown color on the skin?
And also some nice browning on the back.
More importantly, there's some good browning in the bottom of the pot, and you can't replicate that flavor for chicken noodle soup any other way.
So taking the time to brown the chicken is key.
So into the pot all the vegetables go.
And this is what I love about this recipe.
There's no fussy taking things in and out of the pot.
You just keep adding.
So, we're going to have all those vegetables.
We're going to add one bay leaf and two sprigs of fresh thyme, a little more salt, just 1/4 teaspoon, Last but definitely not least, 8 cups of store-bought chicken broth.
And this is really how we're saving a bunch of time making a soup.
Essentially, we're adding flavor to store-bought broth.
So that was 8 cups of store-bought chicken broth, and, obviously, the brand of broth you use makes a big difference here.
You really want to use a good quality chicken broth.
I'm just scraping up any of that fond from the bottom of the pan.
So now we'll just bring it to a boil.
Then cover it, reduce to a simmer, and let the chicken cook through, which takes about 15 minutes.
♪♪ -Chicken soup has an almost mythical status among soups.
It's even thought to have special healing properties.
Think of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books.
In the 12th century, a Jewish philosopher and physician, named Maimonides, recommended chicken soup as a health remedy in his book "On Causes of Symptoms."
Centuries later, in the 1970s, doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center confirmed Maimonides was right.
Their study concluded that chicken soup does have scientific benefits.
Chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, and cysteine bears a remarkable chemical similarity to a drug called acetylcysteine, which is prescribed to patients with respiratory infections.
There are countless versions of health-giving chicken soups from around the world -- avgolemono in Greece, dak kalguksu in Korea, and groundnut stew in Western African countries.
At "Cook's Country," our version of old-fashioned chicken noodle soup is simple and comforting.
♪♪ -Chicken has been simmering for about 15 minutes, and it's time to take its temperature.
That's how you know if it's fully done.
For breast meat, we're looking for a temperature of about 160.
For thigh meat, it can be a lot higher -- over 175.
160 on the nose.
Right, for thighs, you want it to at least be 175 degrees, which these are.
Now, if the thighs go over that, it's okay.
You can overcook thighs, and they'll still stay good and juicy.
Now I'm going to fish out any bits of chicken skin that might have fallen off during cooking, and, of course, the sprigs of thyme and that bay leaf.
Time to go on bay-leaf watch.
Oh, there's the bay.
Now time to add the pasta.
So, I'm going to bring this soup base back to a boil.
And, you know, I've seen a lot of old recipes that cook the pasta separately in its own salted water, and then add it to the soup, but I don't like that.
I think it's a waste of an extra pot and dirty dishes, and I like it when the pasta boils in the soup because it has more flavor.
So I'm just going to use spaghetti.
Of course, you can use any small noodles you want, but the spaghetti just tastes good.
This is 5 ounces of spaghetti.
Just going to break it into 1-inch pieces.
That way, it'll fit on a spoon.
This part's fun.
This last little bit... into the pot it goes.
We're just going to boil that spaghetti until it's cooked through, and that takes about 10 minutes.
And while that is boiling, we're going to turn our attention back to the chicken.
I'm going to take off the skin and bones.
I'm just going to shred it into bite-size pieces, ready to go back in the soup at the end.
Now to shred chicken, I just like using two forks.
Makes it really easy to shred into nice pieces.
Also keeps your fingers safely away from the hot chicken, and I'm just going to discard the skin and bones as I go.
♪♪ The pasta has been simmering for about 10 minutes, so it's time to check the doneness.
Only one way to do that, and that's to taste it.
Just a little bit al dente, which I love in soup, because usually the noodles are all blown out and mushy.
I like it when it has a little bit of texture.
Going to return the shredded chicken to the soup.
Let it warm up for a minute or two.
Also going to add a little fresh parsley.
Just makes everything taste good.
Dill also is a lovely way to finish this soup, and, of course, we're going to test it for salt and pepper.
See if it needs any extra seasoning.
Ooh, good on the salt.
Little extra pepper is always nice.
And that's it.
That is the fastest chicken noodle soup you've ever seen.
Really, it takes less than half an hour.
Oh, and when you're done, look at this soup.
The broth -- you can tell it has that dark color because we browned the chicken.
The noodles aren't mushy.
There's actual vegetables and big pieces of chicken.
This is what chicken noodle soup should be like.
That's a nice, big bowl of soup.
First, let's try the broth.
Has strong chicken flavor, and it's a little bit thickened, thanks to the pasta that we cooked in the soup.
So some of that starch is a lovely thickener.
Oh, that's good.
Chicken is tender.
There's actual chunks of vegetables that you can see, and they're not blown out, and the pasta is al dente.
That is a perfect bowl of chicken noodle soup.
And to get all this flavor into this soup, remember, you should use bone-in chicken, and you have to brown it for at least 10 minutes.
Use high quality chicken broth and last, just boil the noodles right in the soup before serving.
From "Cook's Country" the fastest recipe for old-fashioned chicken noodle soup.
♪♪ -Today, I'm making spinach salad with gorgonzola and pear.
Let's get started.
First, I'm going to cut a pear in half and then I'm going to remove the core.
I'm going to take half the pear and cut it thin crosswise.
Take those pear slices, add them to a bowl, and toss them with some lemon juice so they don't oxidize.
I'm going to take the other half a pear and cut it into large chunks.
Add those pear pieces to a food processor along with vinegar, minced shallot, mustard, some packed brown sugar, and a bit of salt and pepper.
Process it for 15 seconds until it's nice and smooth.
With the processor running, I'm going to add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil for about 30 seconds, until it's emulsified.
That's our dressing.
It's salad time.
I'm going to toss the baby spinach with some of the dressing and then season it to taste.
To make the salad more exciting, I'm going to top it with some crumbled gorgonzola, some toasted chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and that pear we sliced earlier.
For a finishing touch, I'm going to add a little drizzle of the extra dressing.
There you go.
Spinach salad with gorgonzola and pear.
♪♪ -Supermarket broths and stocks are very convenient, but frankly, almost all of the options are terrible.
I mean, really, really bad.
Dozens of products that we have tasted over the years, and most of them we can't recommend.
They either have no flavor, or they have off flavors.
Many of them remind me of, like, old socks.
So I only brought the things we like here today.
Got chicken stock, vegetable stock, and beef stock.
I'm going to start with our favorite chicken stock.
So this is from Swanson.
This is one of the few products where you read the label and you're like, "Huh?
It reads like homemade."
It's basically chicken, salt, and vegetables.
Has a nice, clean flavor, and it is our top choice when it comes to chicken stock.
That said, if you're someone who finds that you never actually finish these big containers and you're throwing out broth, I do have another option.
This is actually our best buy.
It's Better Than Bouillon chicken base.
It keeps for months in the fridge.
This little jar makes 38 cups of broth.
You simply take a teaspoon of the base and reconstitute it in a cup of hot water.
Now at home, I actually use a little bit less, maybe 3/4 of a teaspoon because I find that this can be a little salty, especially in dishes like risotto or sauces that are cooking down.
It's a great option if convenience and small packages are your primary concern.
Now, 9 out of 10 recipes are going to call for chicken stock.
It's got a neutral, savory flavor.
Vegetable stock is often very sweet, and beef stock's really very beefy and meaty, and often you don't want those notes.
That said, if you're vegetarian, you're going to want a vegetarian broth, and this is actually our winner.
It's from Orrington Farms.
It is vegan-chicken flavored, and it's about as natural as it sounds.
You read the label, and there's a lot of things that are not vegetables here, but it actually works.
You don't get a lot of vegetable flavor, but you do get a lot of robust, generally savoriness from this broth.
The yeast extract is the key ingredient that really is driving the flavor in this choice.
Last but not least, when you need beef broth for let's say a beef soup, also Better Than Bouillon -- this is our favorite.
It's got, again, super beefy savory flavor.
This has not only the yeast extract, but hydrolyzed soy protein, which basically supercharges the flavor, and you get a lot of umami.
So, while there are many bad choices in the supermarket, there are four good choices next time you're looking to save some time in the kitchen.
♪♪ -Today, I'm making a rich and creamy make-ahead hot chocolate.
I'm starting with 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, which is much cleaner than chopping up chocolate bars.
Add a cup of heavy cream and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Don't leave out the salt.
It makes it taste more chocolaty.
Microwave until smooth, stirring half way through.
It'll take about two minutes.
Refrigerate the chocolate mixture until it's firm, which will take about two hours.
Scoop out a few tablespoons of the chilled chocolate mixture and roll them into balls that are about 2-inches in diameter.
It's a little messy, but it's well worth it.
You should have about 10 of these by the time you're done.
Wrap each ball in plastic and transfer them to a zipper lock bag.
From there, you can refrigerate them for up to five days, or you can freeze them for two months.
When you're ready to drink hot chocolate, just unwrap a chocolate ball and drop it in a cup of milk.
Microwave until it's smooth and hot, stirring half way through, which will take about two minutes.
It's delicious, especially with some marshmallows on top, or maybe some whipped cream, or if you're feeling it, like, a little splash of bourbon.
Now I just need a good book and maybe a blanket.
♪♪ -Bread baking can be an intense, lengthy process, but when you've got your heart set on soup for dinner tonight, this beer-batter cheese bread can be on the table in under an hour.
Now, the goal for this loaf was an easy, lighter bread enhanced with the yeasty flavor of beer and a big hit of cheese.
I'm starting with 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour -- that's 12 1/2 ounces.
I'm adding 1 teaspoon of table salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Now, quick breads like this get their lift from chemical leaveners.
In this case, I have a hefty 4 teaspoons of baking powder.
Now, that's going to add lightness to what can often be a pretty heavy bread.
I'm also adding 2 tablespoons of sugar, which will enhance the browning and balance out the bitterness of the beer.
And I have 1/2 cup of minced chives, which will not only add some nice fresh flavor, but it's a great complement to the cheese.
The chives really make the bread look pretty, too.
So, whisk this together to get everything distributed.
The problem with a lot of cheese breads is that the cheese tends to melt into the batter and not really add much flavor.
I'm starting with a super flavorful cheese.
This is 1 1/2 cups of shredded Gruyere.
Gruyere has a lot of great flavor.
I'm adding it now, crumbling it into the flour mixture to coat it with the flour, which will help it distribute more evenly throughout the bread, which means flavor from edge to edge.
If Gruyere's not your favorite or you'd prefer a different kind of cheese, you could use a smoked gouda or extra sharp cheddar, something with some punch.
Just want to stay away from meek cheeses, like mild cheddar, so I'm adding some melted butter for added richness.
This is 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter that I've melted.
Now, I promised you beer bread, so we have to add some beer.
This is 1 1/4 cups of a mild American-style lager.
While the beer is there mostly to contribute lift because of its carbonation, it's also going to add some flavor, so save your hoppy IPAs and your heavy malty stouts for drinking.
If you wouldn't drink this beer after you've mowed the lawn on a hot summer day, don't use it in this bread.
I'll mix this together until it's just combined.
It'll be pretty thick, but you don't want to over-mix it.
This looks well-mixed, so we're set to move on to my greased 10-inch cast iron skillet.
I've greased it well because I want to get the bread out of the pan at some point.
So now I can add my batter to the skillet.
It's a pretty stiff batter, and it's really not going to spread or rise a whole lot once it goes into the oven, so I'm going to make sure that I spread it pretty nice and smoothly now.
Cast iron is going to be great for this bread because it's really going to give us a nice browned crust on the bottom and the sides.
It's going to help it bake evenly and quickly.
You can grease the pan with vegetable oil.
There's butter in the recipe, so you could use butter if you like.
It's not our favorite.
This looks nice and even, but we're not finished yet.
We've already put cheese into the batter.
We're not stopping there.
I'm adding another 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyere to the top for an extra hit of cheesy flavor.
And to get a nice, lightly browned, craggy crust on top.
Sounds good, right?
My oven rack is set in the middle position.
I've heated the oven to 450 degrees.
This is going in the oven until it's golden brown, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
That's going to take 20 to 25 minutes, and I will go in and rotate the skillet halfway through baking.
That cheese smell is amazing.
Oh, look at that craggy topping from that extra cheese we put on top.
So let's check, I'll test the bread with the toothpick near the center.
No crumbs, which means it's done.
I'll let this cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
♪♪ It's been 10 minutes, so it's time to get this bread out of the pan.
Even though it's rested a little bit, this pan is still hot, so I am gloved.
Flip it out onto my wire rack.
And then gently pop it out of the pan.
Now, you want to get it out of that cast iron skillet so it doesn't sog out the crust.
And now I'll invert it onto another wire rack so it's right side up.
[ Laughs ] Now, I do need to let this cool for another 20 minutes to make sure that any excess moisture around the sides evaporates and to give the flavor a chance to develop.
So be patient.
♪♪ It's been 20 minutes, so it's time to go in.
Let's check it out.
Can hear that crust.
Now, that is a quick bread.
There is so much cheese flavor in here.
The texture is really tender on the inside, but we've got this great cheesy crust that almost tastes like cheese crackers.
You know what I'm talking about?
This is so cheesy and delicious.
I think I even see a little pocket of cheese here.
That warm, nutty flavor from the Gruyere.
This is not meek.
This is not mild.
This is -- This is a lot of cheese flavor.
The chives that are mixed throughout the bread keep it nice and moist, but they add so much great flavor, and they really do taste great with the cheese.
And the beer just gives it a nice, warm flavor.
And that crust!
It got nice and craggy, and it really gives us a nice textural contrast to that soft, tender inside.
This is a great bread.
I don't even know if you need to make the soup.
So just because you can make bread quickly doesn't mean that you shouldn't take the time to get the flavor right.
So keep your cheese bold and your beer mild, and you're on your way to a really nicely-balanced loaf.
From "Cook's Country," beer-battered cheese bread.
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