There are few things in this world more comforting than being home with nowhere to go while snow pours down outside. I’m not certain how long I stood at the window, tracing the paths of individuals flakes with my eyes, admiring their graceful fall. I marveled at the rapidity with which the yard turned from swathes of the first spring green to a soft blanket of stark white while the cardinals whirled, three red males and a harem of a flock, in their whirling dervish patterns in and out of the tree line.
I had been outside when the snow started, first occasional then constant fat fluffy flakes like feathers from some unseen molting bird. The whipping wind rattled through the trees, an undecided gale from the north, was it winter wind or a frozen harbinger of spring? And the stately pines tossed to and fro, whispering age old stories in an unintelligible hypnotic language. Unfortunately, that calm was cut short at Winston’s behest, who rejects any form of falling moisture without exception and wanted no more being outside. However, inspired by the rapid switch in the weather and a potential last chance to get in a hearty cold weather meal, there was a change in the week’s menu.
Hands deftly cutting apart the fryer as I watched the snow thicken and slack again and again in torrents against the pasture and wood line landscape from the kitchen window. And as the chicken cooked, and its tender bits and a bay leaf boiled down to a fine fresh stock, the house was filled with a smell I love, the indescribable smell of home and comfort. How a single bird and a dried out leaf manages it, I’ll never know, but that magical breath of bay and the salty near buttery thick smell of chicken rendering into perfect stock worthy of eating plain has to be one of the most comforting smells ever, the sort of kitchen smell that makes you certain everything is right as rain. Or snow. Whichever. And that smell still hangs in the air today, fainter now, but there, enough that a bowl of leftover chicken and noodles is called for.
Like a snowy day watched from inside with nowhere to be, chicken and noodles is one of the ultimate comforts, something granny makes frequently in the winter, something served without frills and with a generous side of biscuits for sopping, of course. A simple dish featuring only the most basic of ingredients, it is easy to put together, albeit slow cooking as with all things fine, and worth every minute of the cook time.
1 whole fryer chicken, cut up
1 bay leaf
3 carrots, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
½ one large onion, sliced
1 ½ tsp garlic
1 tsp white pepper
½ tsp ground thyme
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup milk
3 cups homemade egg noodles (or a 16oz package frozen homestyle egg noodles)
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Place chicken in a large stock pot or other soup pot and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low; simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove chicken pieces from broth and remove as much meat as possible from the bone using two forks, lightly shredding as you do. Set meat aside. Return bones to stock, add bay leaf, and simmer low, covered, for 45 minutes. Strain stock into a large bowl through a mesh strainer. This should catch any small pieces of fat and bone, but double check your stock carefully for any small bone fragments and remove any you might find. Pour the stock back into the pot and add carrots and the next six ingredients. Stir gently and simmer for 10 minutes. Bring stock back to a boil and add egg noodles and chicken. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes if using homemade noodles or 15 if using frozen. Whisk together flour and milk in a small bowl, making sure all flour is absorbed. Remove pot from heat and slowly pour in the milk and flour mixture, stirring as you pour. Place the pot back on low heat, add parsley, and allow to simmer 3-5 minutes, or until thickened to your desired consistency. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Please don’t waste your money on precut fryers. If you’ve never cut up your own, it’s very simple. Here is a how to link.
Not everyone likes to make their noodles from scratch and frozen egg noodles are a good quick fix. Fresh are always better though and here is a link to a great simple way to start making your own.
After the final simmer, I turn off the heat under mine and let them sit for about 10-15 minutes to thicken before serving. But I prefer a very thick consistency, so if you would rather a thinner, more soup-like consistency, skip the additional sit time.