Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Italian Chicken Soup with Parmesan Dumplings

While I'm very good at making a weekly meal plan, there are occasional times when we don't follow it.  Sometimes it's because I don't feel like having the planned meal, but, more often than not, it's when I can't get to the grocery store when I expected to.   On one such day, I didn't have any of the ingredients for our meal so I had to quickly think of a different dinner for that night.  Luckily, I had just read the latest Cook's Illustrated magazine and seemed like we had almost all the ingredients on hand for Italian chicken soup with parmesan dumplings.

Of course, I often take some liberties with recipes -- I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts because that's what I had on hand (and what we prefer), I omitted the fennel, I used spinach instead of escarole, I decreased the parmesan...but still the soup came together wonderfully.  The parmesan dumplings were the star of the soup, too.  They actually tasted slightly sweet to me, but since there's no sugar in them, the sweetness came from the lemon zest and nutmeg (and because I decreased the parmesan, too). It was a really nice contrast to the saltiness of the broth, and the dumplings had a great texture to them.

I also love that you can make most of the recipe ahead of time.  I prepped everything that afternoon and so dinner came together really quickly that evening.

I love soup and have even been known to enjoy it in the middle of summer.  But right now, with the rain currently splattering against my window, a cup of this soup sounds pretty perfect!

Italian Chicken Soup with Parmesan Dumplings
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated, May-June 2013

  •  4 (5- to 7-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed (I used about 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken broth instead)
  •    Salt and pepper
  •    1 teaspoon vegetable oil (I increased this to about 1 tablespoon because I didn't have leftover fat from the chicken)
  •    1 fennel bulb, 1 tablespoon fronds minced, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  •   1 onion, chopped fine
  •  2-4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  •   ½ cup dry white wine
  •   8 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used about 4 cups chicken broth and 4 cups water)
  •   1 Parmesan cheese rind
  • 3 ounces Parmesan, shredded on the large holes of a grater, about 1 cup (I decreased this to about 1/2 cup)
  •  2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  •   2 large egg whites (I used one whole egg instead
  •    ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  •    Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 small head escarole (6 ounces), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used fresh chopped spinach instead)
  1. TO MAKE AHEAD: Prepare recipe through step 6 (through shaping the dumplings). Refrigerate broth, shredded chicken, and dumplings separately for up to 24 hours. To serve, proceed with step 7 as directed.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Discard skin.
  3. Drain off all but 1 teaspoon fat from pot and reserve 1 tablespoon fat for dumplings (you can substitute canola oil for the chicken fat if you don't have any). Return pot to medium heat. Add fennel bulb, onion, carrots, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until almost dry, about 2 minutes. Return chicken to pot; add broth and Parmesan rind and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender and registers 175 degrees, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Discard Parmesan rind. Cover broth and remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, use 2 forks to shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Discard bones.
  4. While broth is simmering, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground, 10 to 15 pulses. Measure out 1 cup bread crumbs and transfer to parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet (set aside remainder for another use). Toast until light brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl, reserving sheet and parchment, and let bread crumbs cool completely.
  5. Pulse shredded Parmesan in now-empty food processor until finely ground, 10 to 15 pulses. Transfer Parmesan to bowl with cooled bread crumbs and add reserved 1 tablespoon fat, egg whites, lemon zest, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg. Mix until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.
  6. Working with 1 teaspoon dough at a time, roll into smooth balls and place on parchment-lined sheet (you should have about 28 dumplings).
  7. Return broth to simmer over medium-high heat. Add escarole and chicken and return to simmer. Add dumplings and cook, adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer, until dumplings float to surface and are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve


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