Life on the Hill doesn’t exactly allow ample opportunity for experimentation with cooking, leading to a routine diet at the dining halls. Over the course of the quarter, columnist Andrew Warner sets out to break the culinary monotony of dorm life, armed with a rice cooker and a few pantry staples.
I was practically raised on bright red cans of condensed chicken noodle soup.
From the ages of 3 to 8, I begged my mom to make me Campbell’s Chicken & Stars soup daily.
But since my tastes have grown more refined, I began trying my hand at making my own chicken noodle soup from scratch.
And let me just say, homemade chicken noodle soup is far tastier than its canned counterpart. Having the power to control the soup’s seasoning and sodium levels works wonders on the final result.
Due to the recent drizzles over Los Angeles, I’ve found myself longing for some warm and nostalgic chicken noodle soup more than ever. So I adapted a soup recipe for my trusty rice cooker and got right to work.
After cooking with raw beef for my tribute to Julia Child, I decided that uncooked meat is too oddly textured for me to cook with. It feels slimy, sticky and altogether too unsettling for me to work with again. So when I decided to cook chicken noodle soup, I planned on buying a whole rotisserie chicken at the grocery store.
I was quickly disheartened, however, upon arriving at Trader Joe’s and finding that the store was devoid of a single roasted chicken. Instead, I found prepackaged, pre-grilled and pre-seasoned chicken breasts. The chicken breasts weren’t what I wanted, but they were exactly what I needed – instead of having to figure out how to carve an entire chicken, all I had to do was open up the package and get to chopping.
As a vegetarian, it may seem a bit silly for me to be cooking with real chicken. But just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean I have to give up chicken noodle soup – student chefs can find plenty of vegetarian and vegan substitutes that provide a similarly satisfying flavor and texture to chicken.
I recommend Quorn Chik’n Tenders for vegetarians and vegans who want their soup to have the same comforting flavors as real chicken. For those who don’t appreciate vegan meat alternatives – or can’t afford them – extra veggies like mushrooms and potatoes will add a nice hearty quality.
I call for a quarter cup of celery, onions and carrots, all chopped, in my recipe. But it’s wasteful to buy one onion, one carrot and one bunch of celery, since buying and chopping up whole vegetables will yield more than a quarter cup. Instead, I purchased a prepackaged mirepoix blend at Trader Joe’s.
Mirepoix is really just a fancy French word that refers to a combination of three diced vegetables used for cooking in a soup. Celery, onion and carrots work best for my traditional chicken noodle soup.
The cooking process is straightforward and simple. Sauteing the vegetables was, as usual, the most difficult part, but it wasn’t really necessary – dorm chefs can easily get away with simply boiling the veggies in the soup. However, the slight caramelization from the saute process adds a subtle richness to the finished product.
Since the chicken was already cooked, I didn’t have to do much prep work with the meat at all – I just chopped it up and tossed it into the rice cooker with all the other ingredients and some stock and left it to simmer until all the noodles were fully cooked.
Chefs can choose from several seasoning options. Poultry seasoning blends generally consist of a pretty traditional mix of thyme, sage, marjoram and a few other herbs. But the poultry seasoning I used didn’t pair quite as well with the lemon pepper chicken breast as an Italian seasoning blend would have, so I recommend being adventurous with different spices.
I garnished the soup with some fresh thyme, which added to the overall nostalgia and warmth of the dish, so I wholly recommend it.
Chicken noodle soup was made for the rice cooker. The broth does a lovely job at rehydrating the dry grilled chicken breast, giving the meat a pleasantly tender and stringy texture that pairs perfectly with any slightly overcooked pasta.
The rice cooker is definitely not the conventional chicken noodle soup vessel, but it easily beats the oversalted cans of Campbell’s soup that I grew up on.
Read more Dorm Dining:
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Mixed berry crumble, unsightly but undeniably delicious
Rice-cooker mac and cheese, simple yet savory
Whipping up a vanilla cheesecake using an unlikely oven
Despite overflow setback, rice-cooker curry successful
Rice cooker bread pudding surpasses The Study at Hedrick’s rendition