By guest blogger Chef Kelly Unger, The Rooster & The Carrot,
March is National Noodle Month!
March is also a challenging month for finding local produce (other than root vegetables and some hardy greens). Luckily, Pennsylvania mushrooms are always available and can be the focus to see us through these gap months.
Making homemade broth is easier than you think and a worthwhile thing to do for your health. My easy, slow cooker Beef Noodle Soup gives you a healthy, delicious beef broth, gets you in the noodle spirit and frees you up to enjoy the warm weather outside. And your house will smell amazing while it’s cooking.
What makes this recipe healthy?
Using local, high quality grown and raised ingredients, making it from scratch which means there aren’t any preservatives or chemicals, and slow cooking to extract essential minerals and vitamins from the beef bones. Your immune system will thank you.
Did you know that mushrooms have been growing on Pennsylvania farms since 1885? Pennsylvania also leads the nation in mushroom production. There are 68 farms in Pennsylvania, all owned and operated by families, passed down for generations.
These 68 farms account for 63% of U.S. white mushroom production. Needless to say, mushrooms are an important part of our economy. Visit www.pamushrooms.com to learn more.
Now for the beef
There are several great local sources for pasture-raised beef: Bolton’s Farm Market, Haring Brothers, Tussock Sedge Farm and None Such Farm to name a few.
See our post, Where’s the beef? And pork, and lamb, and chicken…, for where you can find locally raised meats.
None Such Farm is my go-to because they offer many great cuts in their market that you won’t find in a supermarket. For my Beef Noodle Soup I used their very affordable shin meat.
The shin bone itself is perfect for a healthy broth. The shin meat holds its flavor after a long cook time so it can be added into the soup. I use some soy sauce and mirin in my broth to enhance flavors and garnish with sesame seeds but these do not dominate the flavor profile.
To take the flavor in a definitive Asian direction, add a lime leaf to the slow cooker (purchased mine from Mainly Mushrooms), increase the amount of soy sauce and mirin, add fresh minced ginger, add two minced garlic cloves at the end of cooking and sesame oil to finish/garnish the bowl.
One of the reasons this beef broth has a real depth of flavor is because we add homemade chicken broth instead of flavorless water. If you can’t make your own chicken broth, buy low sodium, organic chicken broth such as Pacific, Nature’s Promise or Kitchen Basics, with the amount of sodium between 5 and 7%.
But if you want to make your own chicken broth, it’s pretty easy too. If you’re Spring cleaning or working on some project at home, it’s just as easy to have a pot of chicken stock cooking away on the stove to reward you at the end of the day. Visit my website, The Rooster & The Carrot, for a great recipe for homemade chicken stock.
In a world of “convenience” and packaged foods, we have lost connection to our food. Not only where it comes from (farm, state, country?) but how it is naturally found. You are what you eat, truly.
Healthy food is alive
It has enzymes, does not have preservatives or chemicals and is closest to or in its natural state. Chickens have legs and skin and gizzards and a neck, enzymes, minerals, vitamins and good fat. I strongly encourage you to purchase a whole chicken in the grocery store or more preferably, a local farm/market.
And if you’re a white meat only person, still purchase a whole chicken if for no other reason than to make your own chicken stock. Cooking chicken with the bones and skin keeps it moist and gives it flavor. And if you use an organic chicken, there’s lots more flavor.
Know where your chicken comes from
When local chicken can’t be found, I like David Elliot (also kosher) from Scranton and the Coleman brand. Just remove the breast meat (with the skin attached) with either a knife for boneless or with kitchen shears to keep the bones with the meat, and reserve for roasting. Remember, you want to get in touch with your food!
It doesn’t take any great culinary skill to make your own chicken broth. If you can read and follow directions, you’re good to go. Don’t be intimidated.
When you make your own food with real ingredients, you are in control of how healthy it is. If you can put ingredients in a pot and turn on the heat, you can make your own broth. Use the broth for making rice, sauces, stews and of course, soup. You really can taste the difference as well. I promise.
Slow Cooker Beef Noodle Soup
For the beef broth:
8 oz PA grown white mushrooms
8 oz PA grown baby portabella mushrooms
1 large onion diced
2-3 lbs (2 pieces about 1 ½ “ thick) None Such Farm bone-in shin meat
4 stalks plus inside leaves of celery, ends trimmed
4 carrots, scrubbed and ends trimmed, NOT peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
10 stems parsley, ends trimmed, chopped
Oil for sautéing – olive or grape seed, any non-GMO vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp turmeric
3 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
2 TBSP mirin (rice wine vinegar) preferable, or apple cider vinegar
6 cups homemade chicken stock
Noodles – good quality, organic, wide noodles, like fettucine – for as many as you are serving, I use organic brown rice noodles
Toasted Sesame seeds
Depending on the type of slow cooker you have, you may need to do some sautéing in a separate pan and add ingredients to the slow cooker as you go. I have an All Clad slow cooker which allows me to sauté in the crock itself on the stove top. Adapt my directions to suit your slow cooker model.
- Sauté mushrooms in 1 tablespoon oil until browned, add onion and continue to brown. Add to slow cooker set on low.
- Add meat/bones to the pan (you may need to add more oil), and brown on both sides. Add to slow cooker.
- Add seasonings and vegetables: salt, pepper, smashed garlic, soy sauce, mirin, carrots, celery and parsley.
- Add chicken stock and stir to evenly distribute ingredients. Set timer for 5 hours on low.
- Increase heat to high for one additional hour.
- Remove meat and bones to a plate and allow to rest while you strain the rest of the broth. At this point, fill a soup pot with salted water and bring to a boil to cook the noodles.
- To strain the broth, I use tongs to remove the large pieces and a spoon strainer to remove the rest. I leave small vegetable and marrow remnants in my broth and it makes straining easier.
- When the meat is cool enough to handle, separate it into bite size pieces and add back to the broth. Taste broth and adjust seasonings.
- Leave the slow cooker heat on high until the noodles are cooked. Cook noodles al dente. Strain and toss with 2 tablespoons of oil (sesame or vegetable) to prevent sticking.
- To serve, add noodles to bowl, top with broth, garnish with sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil (optional).
Kelly Unger is a farm to table chef teaching people how to cook for better health. She teaches private cooking classes, appears at local events and shares her recipes on her recipe blog, The Rooster and The Carrot.
Chef Kelly is passionate about local food, farms and creating a strong local food culture. She supports local agriculture causes and volunteers for the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance and the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Haiti Ministry. Chef Kelly holds a Culinary Arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Moravian College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about cooking classes.