Autumn has arrived – you can feel it in the fresh evening air. And here in Minnesota, that means it’s time to ditch your sweaters and soup pot, because it doesn’t take long for the crisp, bracing air to turn cold and frigid.
No other dish warms you up better from the inside out than chicken noodle soup. It feels like a big hug from mom. But unless your mother was very different from mine, if we got soup on a weekday it usually came out of a can.
While it may take some time to make a soup from scratch, you don’t have to play the long game to bring a soul-satisfying soup to the table. A few strategic steps, like those taken in this week’s Chicken Herb Spaetzle Soup, can result in a delicious bowl that’s quick and easy enough to make any night of the week.
Let’s talk about the noodles first. Homemade pasta is thick and chewy and wonderful, but I’m also a big fan of spaetzle, an Eastern European dumpling made with flour, eggs, and milk or water.
Spaetzle are typically served with dishes such as schnitzel, goulash or chicken peppers, but they also taste delicious in chicken soup. The pillow-like little dumplings are lighter than homemade pasta and also less fussy since no rolling is required. I like to add herbs to mine, but they’re just as tasty without.
For the soup, I start by browning the chicken and onion, a step that adds important flavors. Carrots, celery, and chicken broth are added, as well as a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Fresh herbs, especially fragrant ones like thyme, will enhance the flavor of the broth, whether that broth is store-bought or homemade.
From here, it just takes a little more cooking time to cook the chicken through and bring all those comforting flavors together.
The spaetzle are cooked right in the soup, but if you’re not planning on serving the whole soup at once, you may want to cook your spaetzle separately in boiling salted water and toss in a little butter or oil to keep them from sticking, and add in Add a little to each bowl before ladling in the hot soup.
I like to keep soup and spaetzle in separate containers in the fridge. This way the spaetzle don’t absorb too much broth and become mushy. It’s a technique I use when making soup with a starch like pasta or rice.
You can certainly serve this soup with a salad and a piece of crusty bread, but it’s also hearty enough to serve on its own.
Chicken herb spaetzle soup
For 4 to 6 people.
Herb spaetzle, small German dumplings topped with parsley and chives, are a delicious substitute for more traditional pasta in this flavorful chicken soup. While spaetzle is quick and easy to pull together, you can substitute a 12-ounce package of frozen spaetzle if desired. By Meredith Deeds.
For the spaetzle:
• 1 2/3 c. flour
• 3/4 tsp. Salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 2 TBSP. chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, dill, or a combination), plus more for garnish
• 3/4 c. milk
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the soup:
• 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
• 1/2 tsp. salt, shared
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1 TBSP. vegetable oil
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 6c. chicken soup
• 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 stick of celery, thinly sliced
• 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
How to prepare the spaetzle: Whisk together the flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Vigorously stir the milk and eggs into the dry ingredients until smooth (the mixture will become thick). Cover and let rest while you make the soup, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Preparation of the soup: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and add the onion to the pot. Cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Return the chicken to the saucepan with the broth, carrot, celery, thyme sprigs, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil, scraping off any browned bits. Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Discard sprigs of thyme and place the chicken on a cutting board and allow to cool slightly. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Increase the heat to medium and bring the soup back to a boil. Place a sieve with large holes or a spaetzle maker over the soup pot. Place a large dollop of spaetzle dough in the sieve. Using a spatula, push the dough through the holes. Stir the spaetzle lightly. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cook the spaetzle until they float, about 1 minute. Put the chicken back into the soup. Remove from stove.
Pour into serving bowls and garnish with parsley and chives.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.