Saturday, March 10, 2012

Soup like Nonna used to make

I don't have a Nonna.  But if I did, she would make soup like this:

Mama Mia!

Sunday, needing a homey meal, I made this roast chicken.  Along with the lemons, there was plenty of rosemary and garlic in the cavity of the chicken.  It was a lovely roast chicken with a crispy, golden skin and moist, succulent breast meat.  We ate a lot of that breast meat; I ate a drumstick and nibbled some more on the leftovers over the next two days.  And in the pan, underneath the rich cap of chicken fat, there were a lot of juices (because I had also eaten most of the roasted onions too).

On Wednesday, I made chicken soup out of the carcass and pan juices.  I am proud to say that having walked over 50 years on this planet, I finally can make chicken soup better than my mother.  But not by much.  This chicken soup was simple and rustic, with a rich broth and a deep, sophisticated flavor.  What really made this soup special was the olive-oil braised escarole, the freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (buy the best you can afford) and the cracked black pepper.  You can add pasta if you wish, but keep it tiny--like acina de pepe, or mini farfelle or orzo.  But it's wonderful all on its own.  And beautiful too.

As an accompaniment, I can only recommend Dan Lepard's Olive Oil Polenta Crackers  (bottom recipe in this link), which when rolled very, very thin and dusted with fresh herbs, asiago cheese, cracked black pepper and sea salt before they're baked into their thin, crispy, lovely selves will shatter in a heavenly way in your mouth.

This is how I made the soup:

Nonna's Chicken Soup

You can use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but it will lack that beautiful lemon/rosemary/garlic dimension.

1 leftover chicken carcass (remove lemon and herbs beforehand), skim pan juices of fat and use all remaining congealed pan juices
2 cloves garlic
1/4 large onion
handful fresh parsley, with stems
2 tsps. (or more) of salt
2 Tbs. EVOO
2 cups washed, loosely packed escarole leaves (you can substitute kale, bunch spinach or kale)
salt to taste
1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice (optional), kept warm
Pecorino Romano for grating on top
freshly ground black pepper

1.  Place the chicken carcass (with bones and skin for flavor), pan juices, garlic, onion, parsley and the 2 tsps. salt in a 3 or 4 quart pot.
2.  Cover with just enough water to come over the top of the chicken carcass.
3.  Cover partially and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 45 minutes.
4.  Remove all the solids, strain broth and return broth to pot. 
5.  Cool chicken on a plate; remove all skin and bones when carcass is cool enough to handle; return meat to pot with broth and keep hot.
6.  Heat the EVOO in a small skillet over medium heat.
7.  Chop the escarole leaves into large sections (about 2 to 3 inches each) and add to skillet.  
8.  Reduce heat to medium low and gently wilt the escarole.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside until ready to serve.

To serve the soup:  Divide the wilted escarole and the pasta (if using) between two large bowls.  Ladle soup broth and chicken over greens and pasta.  Grate a generous amount of cheese on top and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.  Serves two hungry people as a meal or four people as a starter.

Mangia bene!

No comments:

Post a Comment