Jeff's chicken stew

This is a recipe originally given to me by Jeff's mother. He looked at it and said to me, "You know, I always wished there were more tomatoes in this soup, so do you think you could modify it a bit?" So, I did—and what was previously Shirley's recipe has evolved a bit into my own.Jeff's Chicken Stew

  • 1 hen (3-4 pounds)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 can cream corn
  • 2-3 large baking potatoes
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1—1.5 cup dry elbow noodles*
  • 3 small cans (each same size as corn) of stewed tomatoes, or 1 bigger can and one small can
  • Spices from your pantry

First, you must boil the hen, and you must trust me on this. Get a big stockpot, big enough to hold your hen plus cover it with a couple of inches of water with room to spare. Fill it half full with water, and throw in about 3-4 bay leaves and perhaps a couple of generous pinches of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Put the whole hen in. The water will stop boiling. Leave the hen in the pot. When the water comes to a boil again, put the lid on the pot and let the pot boil for about eight minutes. Do NOT lift the lid! After the eight minutes are up, turn off the heat and leave the chicken in the pot, covered, for an hour. This allows the chicken to cook completely—but at a lower heat, so that it's not boiled to death.

After the hour's up, pull the chicken out of the pot. Skin it, shred the meat, and throw the meat back in the water. (Discard the bones and skin or use them to make chicken stock.) Skim off excess fat from the water and remove enough water so that the water rises about 2-3 inches above all the chicken pieces. Bring the water, uncovered, to a boil again.

Peel and dice the potatoes and onion. Throw them in the pot. Boil until tender—which is usually around 30-40 minutes, but may be less.

Snip apart or smash the stewed tomatoes, if you bought whole ones. Add them to the pot, and continue at a low boil for about two hours. The soup will still be thin; don't worry.

Add in the can of cream corn and the elbow noodles, and turn the heat down to medium or perhaps a little lower. The corn has a tendency to stick and burn if the heat is too high—trust me, it's nasty when it does.

Keep an eye on the consistency of the soup; if, after the noodles are soft, it's still a little thinner than you think it should be, you're doing well. This stew tightens up considerably after a night in the fridge.

The soup is done when the noodles are very soft—squishy, not al dente. Taste and season however you like; I suggest black pepper and salt for starters and then perhaps some herbals, like thyme and rosemary.

Eat either with lots of loaf bread (Jeff) or crackers (Amy).

* I often substitute half a bag of kluski noodles. I love them in this recipe. Jeff really prefers elbow noodles. The kluski are thicker and chewier. It's a matter of personal preference.

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It's amazing what chicken soup will do for the body and soul. I think I have just as much enjoyment making it as I do eating it. Lovely article.