Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Goodwinter Soup

I can't decide whether this one qualifies as local or not. The kale, tomatoes, squash, chicken, onions, carrots, celery are local. The pasta is semi-local. The chickpeas aren't local, and neither are the porcinis or the parmesan.

I adapted this recipe from an excellent one found on Restaurant Widow's wonderful blog. Her version is quicker if you have parmesan stock and leftover chicken on hand but requires several pots if you don't, so while I've made some ingredients changes my adaptation is primarily to trade time for dirty pots. I changed it enough that I decided it needed a new name, so as the ingredients are wintery and the instructions now call for an all-day babysit (though requiring little attention; perfect for a long winter day spent at home but with only occasional visits to the kitchen), I decided to call it Goodwinter Soup.

My husband, who is not generally a fan of chickpeas, asked me to add it into the regular rotation. And it's gorgeous enough to serve to guests -- the combination of the different shapes (round chickpeas, diced squash, spiral gemelli, julienned tomatoes) and colors (the bright orange of the squash, dark green of the kale, and deep red of the tomatoes set against the muted earthtones of the chicken, chickpeas, pasta and stock) have a homely beauty.


1 c chickpeas with water to cover
10 c water
1 3" x 4" piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind
1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 med onion, quartered (or several onion ends)
1 carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 stalk celery, cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 parsnip, halved lengthwise and cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 T peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (or two half breasts)
3 - 4 c chicken stock
4 oz sundried tomatoes, cut in fine julienne
1 bunch kale, cleaned, veined, and roughly chopped
1 butternut or other orange-fleshed winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
1 c gemelli, cooked until not quite al dente (about a minute less than the package instructions.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash chickpeas well, cover with water, and set aside to soak.

Place water, parmesan rind, porcinis, onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaves into a soup pot, bring to a boil, lower to simmer, and let stew for several hours, adding water as necessary to keep covered.

Add chicken breast and more water if necessary to cover completely, return to boil, cover, remove from heat, and allow to cool. (This will poach the chicken breast perfectly; do not remove cover until pan feels just warm to the touch.)

Remove chicken breast, cut into 1/2" dice, and set aside. Drain chickpeas, reserving a cup of the soaking water.

Strain stock in a fine sieve and return to pan. Add drained chickpeas, the reserved chickpea soaking water, and enough chicken stock to cover completely, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until chickpeas are tender (1-3 hours depending on how long they soaked), adding more chicken stock as needed to keep chickpeas completely covered.

When chickpeas are tender, add reserved chicken, kale, tomatoes, and butternut squash, add more chicken stock to barely cover, return to boil, and reduce heat to simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add cooked gemelli and heat through*. Correct seasonings (NOTE: the parmesan rind contains a lot of salt and your chicken stock may, too, so taste before adding salt) and serve with rustic bread and a salad.

*One additional way to avoid dirtying more pots is to cook the gemelli actually in the soup -- throw the cup of uncooked pasta in during the final few minutes of the cooking process, stir to prevent sticking, cover the pot and allow the pasta to steam for five minutes. This is tricky, though -- for your laziness, you risk overcooking your pasta, and the texture of the finished pasta will never be as good as pasta that is cooked in plenty of water until not quite al dente, drained, rinsed in cold water to stop the cooking, then added to the dish to reheat just before serving.

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