Thursday, November 06, 2008

Chicken soup reimagined

Chicken soup is not my favorite. It always reminds me of being, well, sick. It’s often a little too chicken-y and uni-dimensional for my taste. There’s not typically a lot of imagination that goes into it. The way I see it, either you love the familiar, comforting taste of the typical chicken soup, or you are like me, and are a little tired of it.

That’s until my aunt introduced me to an amazing stock that comes from an old Italian cookbook. It’s made with brisket, veal and chicken and has a deep, hearty, sophisticated flavor that is intensely satisfying and anything but boring. The downside is it requires a large quantity of different meat - the upside is the leftovers provide a sandwich feast for some time.

My aunt usually makes it for Passover and adds some wonderful chicken dumplings from the same cookbook. I made a big batch recently and experimented with the add-ins, making an Asian-inspired chicken, pork and rice ball in one version and chicken and pork dumplings in wonton wrappers in the other. Both were hits. I had planned to freeze the remaining broth in muffin tins (a great way to freeze individual portions), but we ate our way through the entire batch of stock before I had time to even consider freezing it for a later use!

Brodo delle Feste (holiday broth) (from The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, I: Traditional Recipes and Menus and a Memoir of a Vanished Way of Life by Edda Servi Machlin) (serves 12)

1 small fowl (about 3 pounds, or 2 pounds turkey legs and wings
1 pound brisket of beef
1 pound breast of veal
1 pound spongy beef bones
1/2 medium onion
1 small carrot, peeled
1 small stalk celery
3 or 4 stalks Italian parsley
4 quarts cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 whole peppercorns

Carefully remove all the breast from fowl and save for another use. Place the remainder of the chicken or turkey legs and wings in a large stockpot with the other meats, the bones, and all the vegetables. Add 4 quarts of cold water and bring to a boil. Remove the scum and add salt and pepper. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours. Strain and refrigerate several hours. Remove and discard all coagulated fat before using.

Chicken and pork rice balls or wontons

For the filling:

½ pound ground chicken
½ pound ground pork
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
One egg, lightly beaten
Generous sprinkling sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Generous sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese

For the exterior:

Wonton wrappers (for the wontons. Available in Whole Foods or your Asian grocery)
1 cup rice (for the rice balls)

For the garnish:

Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
One carrot, peeled and steamed per bowl, if desired
Grated parmesan cheese, if desired


Combine all filling ingredients. Adjust seasonings if desired. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. One by one, carefully place 1 scant teaspoon of filling on top of wonton wrapper. Brush sides of wrapper lightly with water. Place another wrapper on top and gently press along sides to seal. Place in a single layer on top of parchment paper until you are done filling the rest of the wrappers. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook wontons for ~4 minutes and gently remove with a slotted spoon (note: cook only enough for what you need. Freeze the rest in a Ziplock bag). Place 3 or 4 in a bowl of hot broth. Garnish with a sprinkling of flat leaf parsley, one carrot, and grated parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.

Rice balls:

Soak one cup of rice for two hours. Drain. Combine all filling ingredients. Adjust seasonings if desired. Line a bamboo steamer and a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to form tablespoon-sized balls of the mixture. Store in one layer on baking sheet. Pour rice onto a large plate or other flat surface. Roll balls in rice so that rice covers all sides. Place balls in one layer in bamboo steamer and steam for 15 minutes. Rice will fluff up and balls will cook through. Place ~3 balls in each bowl of hot broth, garnish with a sprinkling of flat leaf parsley, one carrot, and grated parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.


Ivy said...

I really want to try this! It looks sooo gourmet and delicious!

Finla said...

I too love chicken soup and this looks so beautiful and delicious

Unknown said...

Hiya S! Seems like we're on the same boat hehehe

Meeta K. Wolff said...

HA! I share the same sentiments with you about chicken soup. However I do often get a craving for it when the weather turns cooler. So I could do with a bowl of this right now!

Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious. great photos.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sabra - this looks really lovely, I can eat it every day (yes I love chicken soup:)) The stock sounds fascinating, I must give it a try soon!

Anonymous said...

Your pictures are beautiful. I love the muted palette you're using in the first picture -- so tranquil and soothing -- and also the muted palette with the shock of color in the other.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.

Y said...

That looks like chicken soup I wouldn't mind having even in warm weather! :)

Carolina deWitte said...

I love brothy soups of all types. This looks delicious, however I still love my grandmother's chicken soup. It's hard to recreate these days as she always used the chicken feet as well as the whole chicken when she made it. You need to buy a whole chicken with feet from an organic farmer in order to do it now. (And often, depending where you live, you will have to buy the feet 'under the table' as in some places it is illegal to sell them.)

Anonymous said...

That and chicken soup can be so salty! It's overwhelming and drying! This recipe sounds delicious! And the rice balls, fun!

Sabra said...

Thanks so much for all of your comments. I think whether you love the standard or not, you'll find Both taste and presentation are unusual and fun. Let me know if you make it!

Andrea said...

Wow, looks amazing! I've never seen such an involved stock. I'm sure it's worth it!

Shari said...

That soup looks delicious, but I want that spoon!

Anonymous said...

That sure sounds like some pretty amazing stock.

Eileen said...

I want to make everything I've seen on your website. Fabulous stuff!!

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