Chicken and Bread Soup

Dear Friends,

Just when I thought I had tasted every kind of chicken soup on the planet, from Thai to Jewish to Amish with those little dumplings called “rivels,” I discover chicken bread soup. At first bite the heavens part and trumpets play. Mentally I rearrange my list of favorite foods: Foie gras, bread soup and then chocolate.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this comforting, homey, pudding-like soup is the cure for everything that ails us. It may be the key to peace in our time, too. Who could be cranky after spooning up a custardy chunk of bread infused with broth and  studded with vegetables and chicken?

I can’t believe this soup was right under my nose for a decade before I found it in a book on my shelf. Although Joyce Goldstein is one of my most trusted cookbook authors, I hadn’t used her book, “Solo Suppers,” much because I’m not solo. But in browsing the book for inspiration recently, I spotted this soup and had to have it.

The recipe, Goldstein writes, is a cross between a panada, or bread soup, and a Venetian dish called “sopa coada.” Here’s the description that got me:

“More like a poultry bread pudding than a soup, it is rich and filling…The aromatic dish emerges (from the oven) golden, the stock fully absorbed, the bread soft and pudding-like.”

Goldstein’s recipe is for a single serving, so I had to play with the ingredients to expand it to three to four servings. Tony ate one serving, and over the next two days I ate the rest. If you know someone who is nursing a cold or the flu, this soup will make you a hero.

CHICKEN AND BREAD SOUP

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into small dice
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 12 to 16 oz. total), cubed
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 or 5 thick (1-inch) slices of sturdy bread
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or half Parmesan and half Fontina

In a wide saucepan melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms  until the edges begin to brown.
Add 1 tablelspoon butter and remaining 1 tablespoon oil and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and stir fry until golden, about 5 minutes. Add wine and boil until it evaporates. Add chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste and the cinnamon. Cover and simmer gently until the chicken is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Toast bread slices on both sides, adding more butter if necessary, until golden.
In a 6-quart, deep-sided casserole such as a souffle dish, arrange 2 to 2 1/2 slices of the bread in a single layer.  Sprinkle some of the cheese on top, then the chicken and vegetables. Top with remaining bread slices. Soup may be made and refrigerated up to 8 hours at this point.
Ladle broth over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover loosely with foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the depth of the casserole. The bread on the top should be chewy and the bread on the bottom, custardy. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

 

HELP U COOK
On the off chance that someone  out there is still nursing their Valentine’s Day chocolate, here’s how to keep it in good shape:

Store it in a cool, dry spot  away from sunlight. The idea temperature is 60 degrees.

Chocolate will keep for up to a year if wrapped well and stored at the proper temperature.

When chocolate is stored at warmer temperatures, the  fat rises to the surface  and produces what is called a “bloom.” This appears as white patches. While it doesn’t look great, it won’t hurt you. The candy is still safe to eat and use in cooking..

If you did eat all of your Valentine’s chocolate and now are desperate for some to use in a recipe, you may substitute 3 tablelspoons cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons butter and 2 tablespoons sugar for one ounce of semisweet chocolate. Be aware, though, that the extra volume of dry ingredients could affect some recipes.

TIDBITS
La Tacqueria Rancheros, home of the most authentic Mexican food I’ve had in Northeast Ohio, has expanded again, but don’t worry – it hasn’t strayed from its culinary roots. Chef/owner David Soreque has merely added more seating and a bar.

The little taco shop began life in a narrow storefront in the North Hill area of Akron. Soreque cooked behind a lunch counter, and customers sat at a handful of stools or a couple of tables squeezed along one wall. His homemade tamales, moles and soft little tacos (served with a sprig of cilantro and squeeze of lime) more than made up for the lack of amenities.

Now the restaurant plus a Mexican food shop David added takes up four store fronts.. Regular specials, I noticed on a recent visit, include mole on Friday  evenings and chile rellenos on Saturdays. La Tacqueria Rancheros is at 286 E Cuyahoga Falls Ave. in  Akron, phone 330-510-2110.

THE MAILBAG

From Carla Owens:
Back in the day, the Akron City Club was the place movers and shakers went to socialize and “do business.” The view of the city and the food were phenomenal. My grandfather frequented the establishment and even contributed to the menu with a recipe for a seafood appetizer they named “The City Club Special.” It is delicious but unfortunately calls for an ingredient that appears to no longer be made — Escoffier diable sauce. Does anybody have a bottle in the back of their pantry collecting dust?  Internet searches have recipes but preparing a recipe for another recipe seems a bit much. Don’t tell that to my Grandpa Max Moch though – he would be sorely disappointed!

Dear Carla: What a charming story. If you’ll share the recipe, we’ll try to find a substitute for that diable sauce.

From Anne Caston, Cuyahoga Falls:
A helpful website when scaling down larger recipes, such as Jimmy’s 
Favorite Garlic Dressing: 
http://www.fruitfromwashington.com/Recipes/scale/recipeconversions.php Ingredients that aren’t given in typical units of measure, such as 
cloves of garlic or whole onions are a bit tricker to enter, but if you 
play with it a bit, you’ll get the hang of it.

Dear Anne: I can put away my calculator now. Thanks for bringing this site to our attention. My only caveat is that some recipes and/or ingredients cannot be proportionately reduced without affecting the flavor or texture.

From Anonymous:
This is for Sharene, who asked what kind of sauce to serve with sauerkraut balls.  Some restaurants I’ve been to serve them with marinara sauce, others with honey mustard, and I’ve also seen them served with a sauce similar to the Bloomin’ Onion sauce from Outback Steakhouse.  I imagine an English brown sauce would be nice as well.

Dear An:
I still say, eat ‘em nekkid.

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