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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicken Escarole Soup

It's really hard to get over a cold when you are constantly on the go - working, caring for a child, going to school, etc. etc. etc.  There is no time to let the body rest and fight off whatever it is that is making my head feel like it is a bag of hay.  I can't breath and it hurts to talk - a little tough to get through the day teaching - unless I don't talk to the students.  As much as I'd like to sometimes not do that, it is impossible.  I think I talk more in any given day than most.  I also make more decisions on an given day - more than an air-traffic controller in about stressful.  I love my job, but when I feel this sick, I can't be an effective teacher.  Time to take a day and try to rest up as much as possible - give my body a chance to heal before it's too late.  So yesterday I did just that - stayed in bed, drank lots of tea, and made Jim's grandmother's chicken escarole soup - which is all I need to feel twenty times better.  I put the soup up in the morning, took some pictures during the process, drank a butt-load of tea, and then ate soup for the rest of the day.  After a day of drinking lots of anti-oxidant packed fluids and leafy-green filled soup, I feel much, much better.

One year for Christmas, one of Jim's aunt's gave everyone in the family a book of his grandmother's recipes.  It is a treasure, allowing Grammy's spirit and the Centrella traditions to continue to live on in our kitchen.  Considering the fact that Grammy didn't use recipes or measuring devices, I think I did the soup justice.  Read past the picture for my version...

Chicken Escarole Soup

1 whole cut up chicken, skin and visible fat removed
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
2 yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut horizontally in half
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 head escarole, chopped and rinsed well
3 eggs, scrambled lightly
2 Tbsp grated romano cheese
1 cup tiny pasta (I recommend the teeny tiny pearl-like pasta)

Put the first eight ingredients into a large stock pot. (I do not have a big enough stock pot, because after all is cooked and done, I always wish there was more broth - it needs it.  One day, I need to invest in a ginormous stock pot.  Maybe I'll ask for it for Christmas this year.)  Fill the pot with water - everything should be covered, but the more water, the better.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a low simmer.  For the first 15 minutes of the cooking process, be sure to diligently skim the froth off the top of the surface.  Continue to cook for at least 3 hours, skimming occassionally.  If the water level gets too low, add more water.  When it is done cooking, place a large mesh strainer over another pot and layer with unfolded coffee filters.  Strain the soup into the pot.  Take the cooked chicken and pick through and shred the meat, discarding the fat and bones.  Cut up the cooked carrots, celery, and onions.  Return the chicken and vegetables to the pot of strained broth and bring back to a boil.  While waiting for the soup to return to a boil, prepare your escarole.  Add it to the boiling soup and cook until tender - about 5 minutes.  Combine the eggs and cheese and add the boiling soup in a slow stream while whisking so as to form the stracciatella (Italian egg drop.)  Lastly, add the pasta and cook as per the directions on the box.

Serve with some extra romano cheese and some crusty bread.  You must make this soup at some point or at many points this fall and winter.  You won't regret it.  I'm going to start calling this soup the cold crusher.

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