I still cook it but not exactly in the way cooks of generations past made it. I’m all for the warmth that nostalgia brings, but…
What exactly do I do so differently? Well, for starters, I don’t start by boiling a whole chicken. That was how it was done generations ago. Boil a whole bird to create a good stock, scoop out the chicken, shred the meat, discard the bones, return the meat to the pot, add the rest of the ingredients (pasta, slices of canned Vienna sausage, carrot and cabbage) and cook. Milk is added at the end.
Why don’t I start with a whole chicken? Because I make and keep chicken bone broth with herbs and spices. It’s a time saver because there’s no need to start from scratch. That means I don’t have to cook a whole chicken every time, end up with too much chicken meat, and feel obliged to cook a ginormous pot of sopas when I only require half as much, or even less.
What else do I do differently? No canned Vienna sausage. In this recipe, I used bockwurst (a German sausage traditionally made with pork and veal, and seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika) and unsweetened bacon. But I’ve used other sausages too like kielbasa, bratwurst and Hungarian sausage. And the final flavor and aroma of my sopas varied depending on the sausage used.
I start by heating finely sliced bacon and sausages in an oil-free non-stick pan. I cook them until lightly browned and fat has been rendered. Browning means caramelization and, in terms of flavor, that is a very good thing.
I add quartered button mushrooms and continue cooking until they start caramelizing too. Because the mushrooms soak up most of the rendered fat, I add a couple of tablespoons of butter to avoid scorching.
Carrot cubes are tossed in and chicken broth is poured in. How much broth? For this recipe, I used a total of six cups. That may sound too little but a cup of milk is added toward the end so six cups is just right. Of course, if you prefer a less chunky soup, you may use more than six cups of broth. Your decision.
Allow the broth to come to a rolling boil before adding the macaroni. Make sure to stir occasionally for a minute or so to ensure that the noodles don’t clump. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer until the noodles are cooked through. This is a soup — we’re not aiming for al dente here. In fact, the softer the noodles, the thicker the soup becomes because of the starch that gets mixed into the broth.
Take your chopped fully cooked chicken and add to the soup. Stir in sweet peas too. It’s all right if the peas are frozen. They will soften to perfection during the last stage of cooking.
Take a can of evaporated milk and pour into the pan. Stir. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Allow the soup to simmer for five minutes.
It is best to serve sopas immediately because the noodles continue to soften in the hot broth. They will turn soggy as the soup cools. Some people like sopas that way and they don’t mind the mushy pasta which actually thickens the soup and give it better texture.
If you’re among those who don’t mind soggy macaroni in your sopas, then you’re likely to store leftovers to be reheated the next day or days. To discourage quick spoilage, it is best to allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes after stirring in the milk. This brings the milk to the same temperature as the rest of the ingredients.
Creamy chicken and macaroni soup
- 200 grams belly bacon (unsweetened) thinly sliced
- 200 grams sausage (bockwurst is used here) cut into small cubes
- 200 grams button mushrooms quartered
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium carrot peeled and cut into small cubes
- 6 to 8 cups chicken bone broth
- 1 ½ cups macaroni
- 2 to 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
- ½ cup sweet peas
- 1 can evaporated milk
- Set the stove to medium, heat a non-stick pan and spread the bacon evenly.
- Wait for a little fat to be rendered then push the bacon to one side of the pan and spread the sausage on the empty half.
- Cook without disturbing for a few minutes to allow the meats to render fat.
- When both the bacon and sausages are lightly browned, add the mushrooms and butter, and cook until the mushrooms are softened.
- Toss in the carrot cubes.
- Pour in the broth and allow to boil.
- Pour in the macaroni. Stir occasionally for a minute or so to keep the noodles separate.
- Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the macaroni is done.
- Taste the broth. Add salt and pepper, if needed.
- Stir in the chicken and peas.
- Pour in the milk.
- Leave to simmer for five minutes before serving.