Quicker Chicken Soup
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 to 3 teaspoons salt, divided
1 to 3 garlic cloves, to taste
1 1/2 pounds (about 6) chicken thighs, preferably bone-in
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 quarts chicken stock, store-bought or homemade, divided
1/2 pound noodles
WARM a teaspoon of oil over medium heat in the Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the diced onions, celery and carrots with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just start to soften, 3-5 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the garlic. Cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds, and then stir the garlic into the vegetables.
REMOVE the skin from the chicken thighs, but leave the bone in. (Boneless chicken thighs will work, but the bones add richness to the broth.) Move the vegetables to the edges of the pan and warm the remaining teaspoon of oil in the middle of the pan. When oil is hot, add the chicken thighs in a single layer. Cook without moving for about 3 minutes, until the underside is seared golden. Flip the thighs and sear the other side until golden.
ADD the bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot. Pour in 1 quart (4 cups) broth. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes.
REMOVE from heat and transfer the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon. Chop the meat or shred it using two forks. Remove and discard bones. (It’s OK if the meat is still a little pink in the middle at this point.)
BRING a separate pot of water to a boil for the pasta. When boiling, salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is barely al dente and then drain. (Or add the second quart of broth to the soup, bring to a simmer, and cook the pasta in the soup itself.)
RETURN the shredded chicken to the soup and bring to a simmer. If the chicken wasn’t quite finished cooking, continue simmering until it has cooked through. Add the noodles to the soup. If a thinner broth is desired, add more chicken broth. Remove the bay leaf and add salt and pepper and to taste.
EXTRA-EASY CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP: Substitute 3 cups precooked shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken for the chicken thighs. Reduce simmering time to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked.
TO FREEZE: Remove the portion of soup to be frozen before adding the pasta. Cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls before serving.
TO AVOID MUSHY NOODLES: The noodles will continue absorbing liquid from the leftover soup as it cools. If you don’t like mushy noodles, keep the pasta and soup separate and add the pasta to bowls individually.
YIELD: 6-8 servings.