I made this soup for my mom when she was recovering from major surgery here at our home. She spent the first couple of weeks in a hospital and rehab facility where the food was truly awful. I brought her little farmers market treats like sliced tomatoes and strawberries to remind her that not all food comes from boxes and cans, but man, the overall effect of feeding healing people crap food is seriously depressing.
She was so glad to make the jump to our house where she could nosh on whatever appealed from my recipe testing/writing, while starting to cook for herself again, too. She couldn't eat more than a few bites of anything at a time—and all she was truly hungry for was sweets, ha—but I’ll never forget the killer BLT she made herself at one point—thick with a perfect tomato and a pile of freshly picked lettuce—and managed to eat half of it.
Baby steps on the road to recovery that signaled a slow return to normal.
She also managed a few bites of this soup, which really hits the spot on a colorless winter’s day. I love chicken soup for its endless versatility, and of course for its soothing, healing deliciousness. I studded this version with kale, sweet potatoes, garlic and just a spot of bacon (because my mom loves bacon).
Photo By Stephanie Meyer
• 1 roasting chicken (about 3 pounds), patted dry
• 1 tablespoon bacon fat or vegetable oil
• 2 yellow onions: 1 coarsely chopped, 1 diced
• 6 cloves garlic: 3 smashed, 3 minced
• 2 ribs celery: 1 halved, 1 diced
• 2 carrots: 1 halved, 1 diced
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 6 cups water
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to finish
• 2 slices bacon, diced
• 1/2 bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale, ribs removed and sliced thin
• 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 1 large garden-ripe tomato, diced
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Make the broth:
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Heat a Dutch oven or casserole with a tight-fitting lid over medium high heat. Add the bacon fat or oil; when hot, add the chicken and brown it thoroughly all over. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
3. Turn heat to down to medium and add the coarsely chopped onion, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, 1 halved rib of celery, 1 halved carrot and thyme. Stir around for a few minutes, then slowly add the water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Nestle the chicken back into the pot and bring stock to a simmer. Cover and transfer to the oven. (Or, turn heat to low and simmer on top of the stove.)
4. Bake (or simmer) chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until chicken is very tender. Remove chicken from the pot to a cutting board (it might break apart into pieces, which is fine) and let cool for a bit.
5. Strain stock through a colander into a large bowl. Skim fat from stock. Discard strained vegetables.
Make the soup:
1. Set the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon to the pan. When the bacon is browned and crisp, add the diced onion, diced garlic, diced celery, diced carrot, kale, sweet potato and nutmeg. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion is softened. Pour in the stock and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the carrot and sweet potato are tender.
2. While the soup simmers, tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.
3. To serve, stir about half of the chicken into the hot soup (reserving the rest for another use) and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Divide the diced tomato among soup bowls, ladle soup over the tomatoes, top with black pepper and Parmesan cheese, and serve. Serves 6
Stephanie Meyer is a home cook, writer, and photographer. Motivated by the belief that all good things come from preparing meals at home, Stephanie shares recipes, cooking tips and photographs on her accessible food blog, Fresh Tart; on TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine; and on Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures/Food & Wine Magazine. Stephanie is also the founder and organizer of Fortify: A Food Community, a group of Minnesota writers, photographers, growers and food industry professionals that celebrates food, hosts educational events and raises money for local charities.
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