As I learned last week when the nights turned cold again after a tank-top weekend during which I nonetheless spent Saturday simmering stock, containers of homemade chicken soup in the fridge translate into quick, warming dinners even on weeknights. On Tuesday, we sipped plain chicken broth, and on Wednesday, I made this, only with homemade chicken broth instead of veggie. On Thursday, I made risotto.
I hardly ever have homemade chicken stock, even though I know it’s neither hard nor labor-intensive to make. And I don’t love buying pre-made chicken stock at the grocery store. It’s not cheap, and shelf-stable perishables make me squirm a little.
Ever since I read an article (I think by Ruhlman) about building up stock as you cook a meal, I’ve no longer been in a bind when I want to make a quick soup or broth-based meal on a weeknight, even when there’s no stock–homemade or otherwise–in my pantry. Instead, I sauté aromatics and other vegetables with some chicken and just add water. By the time the chicken is cooked, the water has turned into a light, flavorful chicken stock. This is no slow-simmered, rich-as-butter broth, but it’s pretty damn good!
All that’s needed is a spoonful each of several ingredients from the Asian section of my pantry–miso, soy sauce, and mirin–and this soup is on its way to being a hearty and healthy–and incredibly easy to make dinner. A weeknight gem.
Chicken Soba Soup with Miso and Spinach
Lots of variations here: this is good both with and without the miso. You can use regular wheat noodles (angel hair would be nice) if that’s what you have on hand. For gluten-free eating, be sure to grab wheat-free soba, or sub in rice vermicelli. And, if you prefer buying skinless, boneless chicken breasts, you can still make this happen, you’ll just lose a bit of extra flavor from the skin and bones.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large or 2 small bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (slightly more than 1 pound)
8 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
8 cups water
2 tablespoons white wine or mirin
6 ounces soba noodles
3 tablespoons white miso (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
2 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Heat a medium Dutch oven over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the oil. Season the chicken with kosher salt and cook skin side down until brown, about 4 minutes. Flip, then cook another 2 minutes.
Add the whites of the scallions and the ginger to the other side of the pot while the chicken’s second side finishes cooking. Cook, stirring, until softened, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 7 cups of water and the wine and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 18 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
When it tests done, remove the chicken to a plate. Let it cool slightly, then remove and discard skin and bones and either shred the chicken or cut it into cubes.
While you’re shredding the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high, add ½ teaspoon of salt to the soup and throw in the noodles. Let them cook according to package directions until nearly done, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, if you’re using the miso, place it in a mug. Pour about 1/2 cup of soup into it and stir with a fork to dissolve. Stir in the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and then pour this mixture into the soup. (If not using miso, just add the soy and vinegar to the soup.) Add the spinach and let it wilt. Taste for salt, adding more as needed.
Ladle the soup and noodles into big bowls topped with the chicken, radishes, cilantro, and scallion greens.