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Chicken Noodle Soup New Orleans Style

1 lg whole fryer
1 c onions -- diced
1/2 c celery -- diced
1/2 c parsley -- minced
4 Garlic clove -- garlic
1 c carrots -- chopped
3 bay leaves
1 t poultry seasoning
4 qt Water
12 oz broad egg noodles
2 T butter
1 c onion rings -- sliced
1 c mushrooms -- sliced
1 c carrots -- diced
1/4 c cream sherry
salt & pepper -- to taste
Scallions -- for garnish

First, take the chicken and wash it thoroughly -- that means both inside and out! Remove the giblets, scrub out the internal cavity under cold running water, and scrape away anything that doesn't look edible. (But DO NOT remove the chicken skin or any of the fat! You need the skin to make a rich stock. )

Next, take a slow cooker and place the chicken and giblets into it. Then drop in the diced onions, the 1/2 c of celery, the 1/2 c of minced parsley, the garlic, chopped carrots and bay leaves, poultry seasoning and *2* quarts of water. Then, with a spoon, evenly distribute the seasoning mixture around the chicken, turn the slow cooker to high, and cook for at least six hours (or better still, OVERNIGHT). Remember, the longer you cook, the richer the base stock and the more tender the chicken.

While the chicken is slow cooking, it's a good time to prepare your noodles. Go ahead and boil them according to package directions. . . but DO NOT COOK THEM UNTIL DONE! Keep in mind that you're going to drop them into a soup, so you want them el dente (firm), otherwise they'll turn to pure mush by the time you eat them. Furthermore, you want a small percent of the starch in the noodles to cook into the soup to thicken it slightly -- if you cook the noodles all the way, the soup's consistency will be flat and thin.

After the noodles are cooked, butter them slightly and set them aside.

When the chicken is tender, take a set of tongs or a strainer spoon, remove it from the slow cooker (it may tend to fall apart, but that's okay), and set it on a platter to cool. At this point, strain out all the seasoning vegetables from the stock, place the stock into a metal bowl, and place the bowl into the refrigerator or freezer until the chicken fat congeals (which should take about 1 hour). Meanwhile, pick the chicken off the bones and, with a sharp knife, chop it into bit-sized pieces.

Then, in a heavy 12-inch skillet, melt the butter and sauté the sliced onions, mushrooms, and carrots until they're tender. Then drop in the chopped chicken meat. And over medium-low heat, cook it into the vegetables for about 10 minutes.

While the chicken and vegetables are sautéing, remove the chicken stock from the refrigerator, skim off all the fat, and place the skimmed stock into a soup pot, along with the remaining 2 quarts of water. At this point, you should season the soup stock to taste with salt and pepper.

Now drop in the sautéed chicken, mushrooms, onion rings and diced carrots -- along with the sherry, the Tabasco*, and as soon as it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to thoroughly blend.

When you're ready to eat, ladle out heaping helpings of the piping hot soup into bowls, garnish with a sprinkling of thinly sliced green onions, and serve with crunch saltines.

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