SOUP CLUB – JANUARY

“Whatta we do now boss?” “First, we wash our hands!”  So goes the running gag in the Marx Brothers movie, “A Day at the Races.”  Every time Chico asks the question, Groucho gives him the same answer.  And every time you want to make soup, the answer is “First you make stock.”  Sure, you can use boxed or canned stocks, and some of them are pretty good.  I like the richness of Kitchen Basics.  But there is nothing as good as home made chicken stock.  I keep a freezer full of 1 quart bags of concentrated stock that are just enough for a single batch of soup.  So, here’s the primer.

CHICKEN STOCK

Place a whole chicken or four pounds of chicken parts in a large dutch oven or stock pot.  Cover it with six quarts of water.  Add one onion, unpeeled, two stalks of celery, with leaves, two carrots, roughly chopped, a dozen peppercorns and two bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours.  Remove the chicken and let stand until cool enough to handle.  Remove the meat and save for another purpose.  Return the skin and bones to the pot and continue to simmer for another two to three hours.  Strain the stock through a double layer of cheesecloth.  Allow to cool and then refrigerate overnight.  Remove all the fat which will have hardened on the top of the bowl.  The cooled stock will be like jello.  Ladle into four one quart zip lock freezer bags.  Each bag will make one batch of soup.

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP (double batch)

Meatballs:

1 pound ground beef

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

1 cup grated romano cheese

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

salt and pepper

1/2 pound acini di pepe pasta

1 bag baby spinach

1 cup shredded cooked chicken

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot, sliced fine

1 stalk celery, sliced fine

1 tablespoon butter

Assembly:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a soup pot.  Add the onions, carrot and celery and sweat until the vegetables are soft.  Add 8 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Mix the meatball ingredients well and form into 1/2 inch round meatballs.  Drop into the simmering liquid.  Cook for 15-20 minutes.  Add the shredded chicken, spinach and acini di pepe pasta.  Bring back to a boil and then let simmer until pasta is tender – 8-10 minutes.  Serve with crusty bread.

You can make the soup ahead of time.  Just don’t add the pasta and spinach until 10 minutes before serving.