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 need require half as much, or even less. Not possible during my grandmother’s day because chicken was sold whole back then. No choice cuts. And definitely no fillets.
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 scoop out the bacon and sausages, and leave the rendered fat behind. Not to discard but to cook the chicken in. Why waste flavor, right?
To the rendered bacon and sausage fat, I add butter. I leave it to melt then I lay my chicken fillets in a single layer. Skin side down first. I sprinkle salt and pepper over the fillets, wait until the skins have browned a bit, then I flip the fillets over. I just cook them over medium heat, flipping occasionally, until the meat is cooked through.
With the bacon, sausages and chicken done, I move to the vegetables and noodles. I heat the broth, add carrot, celery and scallions, and let everything simmer for about ten minutes to give the vegetables time to soften a bit.
During those ten minutes, I chop the chicken fillets.
Then, I turn up the heat, add the macaroni and cook, stirring, during the first few minutes to make sure that the noodles stay separate.
Adding mushrooms is optional but they do add flavor and texture. Cabbage is traditional, and we do love cabbage at home, so I just slice up my cabbage and throw it into the pot as well.
The bacon, sausages and chicken join the macaroni and vegetables in the pot, and they are left to simmer together until the noodles are done.
The last ingredient is milk. This is where the sopas becomes creamy sopas. Just pour in the milk, stir, adjust the seasonings if needed, and your sopas is ready to be served.
Full recipe below
Creamy chicken and macaroni soup
Cook the meats
- 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 slices on the empty half.
- Cook without disturbing for a few minutes to allow the meats to render for fat.
- When both the bacon and sausages are lightly browned, scoop out and transfer to a bowl.
- With the stove on medium, add the butter to the rendered fat and heat.
- Lay the chicken fillets, skin side down, in the combined fats.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on each fillet and leave to cook until the skins are lightly browned.
- Flip the chicken fillets over to lightly brown the opposite sides.
- Cook the chicken, flipping occasionally, until the meat is cooked through.
- Transfer the chicken fillets to a cutting board.
- Save the pan drippings.
Cook the vegetables and noodles
- Pour the broth into a pot, bring to the boil then drop in the carrot, celery and scallions. When the broth comes to a boil once more, lower the heat, simmer, covered, for ten minutes.
- Add the macaroni. Stir occasionally for the next few minutes to keep the noodles separate.
- Add the mushrooms and cabbage, and simmer, covered, until the noodles are half done.
Complete the soup
- Chop the chicken (it should be cool by this time), and add to the pot along with the bacon, sausages and drippings from the pan in which they were cooked.
- Simmer, covered, until the noodles are just a bit undercooked.
- Pour in the milk, stir and allow to simmer for a few minutes before serving your sopas.