Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chicken Au Pistou Soup

Who does not like chicken soup?  It seems to be a universal remedy to every ailment from a flu to a bad mood.  It is an ultimate comfort food and no one in my family likes it.  Go figure! 
My picky family forced me to look for more creative ways to make chicken soup.  This recipe was inspired by a version of ‘Pistou’ soup I tried at a local café.  “Pistou” means pesto in French.  And pesto can be made pretty much out of any combination of herbs, garlic, nuts, sun-dried tomatoes or peppers, cheese, etc… as long as it is ground to a ‘paste’ it can be called “pesto”.
For this soup I decided to make a classic Italian pesto of basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese.  I omitted the pine nuts as they seemed to heavy for the any soup.  One other combination that I think would work is sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and walnuts (very few).
One other trick I learned when making hearty winter soups is to use scraps… yes, scraps.  When that wonderful, nutty, expensive Parmesan or Asiago cheese comes to the end, and all you have left is a seemingly useless rind… put it in the freezer.  Next time you make soup use the rind to give it extra flavor.  If the cheese was salty, don’t forget to adjust your overall seasoning.

For the soup:
1 diced yellow onion
1 ½ cups of diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 tbs of olive oil
1 ½ to 2 lbs of chicken (mixed white and dark meat on the bone).  I find that using bone-in meat makes the stock more flavorful.
1 cup white wine
2 inch piece of parsley root.
bouquet de garni – 2 fresh bay leaves, 3 springs of thyme, parsley all tied together with a kitchen string.
1 ½ tbs of herbs de province
1 rind of parmesan cheese (optional)
1 cup of orzo or any short pasta.

For the pesto:
2 cups of basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic chopped
2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup of shredded parmesan cheese

In a heavy bottom soup pan or a Dutch oven , heat up the olive oil.  Add the onions followed by the carrots and celery and sauté until the vegetables are softened.  Add the herbs de province and the white wine and cook until the wine is slightly reduce.  Add the chicken, bouquet de garni, parsley root, and the cheese rind and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat so that the soup simmers gently.  Simmer uncovered for 45 min, periodically removing the fat and “shmoots” from the soup’s surface. 
When the chicken is fully cooked and very tender, remove it and while it slightly cools, reduce the remaining stock by one quarter. 
Take the chicken meat of the bone and either shred it with two forks or cut it into bite size pieces.  Remove the parsley root and bouquet de garni from the soup, add the chicken back and the pasta and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another 5 – 7 minutes or until the pasta is done.
In the mean time prepare the pesto.  Combine all ingredients in the food processor and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles a paste. 
Turn off the heat and stir in the pesto.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy!  This is one may not cure any diseases but it will sure to make you a little bit happier.

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