Monday, February 25, 2013

Great grandma's chicken, bread soup

As English chef Rowley Leigh says: 
"Soups are an exercise in minimalism."  What you leave out may say more than what you put in. 

All of my married life I have heard of Monsieur's great grandmother's soup from southern Italy. Hers was made with stale bread instead of bespoke croutons and so could be called a peasant bread soup. 

Yesterday, we tried making some with our supply of chicken stock. 

Making chicken stock has become a tradition for us.  It's always comforting to have the fumes of the simmering broth carried through the house. What we don't use during the week, we freeze for the future.   In this way we get upwards of three meals out of our bio chickens ( let's face it they are expensive). Sometimes the second day is a curry or a stir fry, from leftover chicken.   The third day may be a risotto or polenta made with the broth we have brought to a rich concentration. 

  Concocting this soup was so easy it almost made itself.  Monsieur remembered that there was escarole in it , sautéed in garlic.  And because we had some carrots and green beans, we put those in too( in the photo they have sunk to the bottom).  The mushrooms were an afterthought but I imagine "bis-nonna" would have approved.

For the croutons, we used "Poilane" (see previous post)rye bread, simply toasted but I might have buttered and grilled them in pan or oven.  

Because we de-fatted the broth, we put in plenty of parmesan and served some prosciutto on the side.  As for spice" just a little salt and some pepperincino flakes. 

"A proper peasant soup is a meal, not the first course of a banquet." 

Our simple soup did not lack interest nor satiety value, and we were pleased with its subtle flavors.

  Next time I would not de-fat the broth quite as much and I will butter the croutons.

  Hmmm,  there is a whole culture of Italian peasant soups to try with additions of chick peas, pasta,rice or bread.  But the best ones have evolved out of poverty not out of a sense of artistic minimalism that over-rides some culinary creations today.

 This soup takes us back to simplicity and purity: just a nourishing broth for these cold Lenten days.    


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