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Today I stayed home because I haven’t been feeling well at all, lately. I was sick last week end and since then my digestive system has been on revolt. At the same time, a friend of mine has been suffering from a sore throat, so it seemed like a very good time to make some comfort food and have an easy evening at home.

When I think of comfort food, the dishes that come to mind are the ones my mother used to make. One of my favorite recipes of hers is extremely simple but never disappoints. It’s a basic Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, and it was just as good tonight as it was when I was a child and my mother made a giant pot of it.

The recipe is a bit of the unwritten variety, but here are the basics:

1 whole fryer chicken

3 large carrots, sliced in thick slices or cut into chunks

3 stalks of celery, sliced in thick slices or cut into chunks

1 package wide egg noodles

1 container chicken stock

First, boil the chicken in a Dutch oven or other very large pot until it is cooked through and tender enough that the legs easily separate from the body. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. Skim as much fat and scum from the top of the remaining liquid as you can, and leave the pot on the stovetop. If you want, you could do this ahead of time and either freeze the broth or chill it until you want to actually make the soup.

Once the chicken has cooled enough to touch, use fingers to pull as much meat from the bones as you can, pull it into small pieces and thin strips, and drop into liquid remaining in pot. Set heat to just above medium. Chop carrots and celery, and add to pot. Keep at a steady simmer until vegetables are cooked through. Bring to a boil again and add egg noodles; cook for 8-10 minutes at least, or until noodles are tender.

I usually add the salt and pepper at the end, as I like the other flavors to incorporate together before trying to figure out how much is needed. You could also add in herbs like thyme and rosemary while initially cooking the chicken, as well as adding onion or mushrooms to the soup. It’s a matter of taste, really.

Tonight I served this soup (with mushrooms added) along with some fresh cherries, a loaf of French Peasant bread from Breadsmith bakery and a huge chunk of unbelievably yummy Plugra butter. My roommate says it’s the only butter she’s ever actually wanted to eat all on its own, and I totally agree.

Our friend Joseph came over to eat with us tonight – he’s Korean, and his palate tends toward needing a lot of spice in a meal to feel satisfied, which of course is the reverse of what chicken noodle soup is. So he added about a tablespoon of red pepper flakes and a lot of salt and black pepper to his bowl while eating. I can’t imagine doing that, but every person’s palate is different, and that’s what makes the experience of eating together so interesting! He also brought a small container of kimchi to eat along with the soup – it sounds bizarre but actually my mom’s chicken soup isn’t that different from some Korean chicken soups, so it went together surprisingly well. The concept of “throw a chicken and some vegetables in a pot together” certainly didn’t originate with my mother – it’s something that can be found in recipe traditions literally all over the world.

Pictures of tonight’s dinner:

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