Sunday, October 7, 2007

Tuscan Chicken (not) Soup

Why would you think a soup would be named Tuscan CHICKEN Soup when there isn't any chicken in it? Beats me! But, I'm being true to the original recipe, which called it Tuscan Chicken Soup. Even though it has beef in it.

When the instructor, Patty Padawar, explained this soup, she must have had some kind of explanation, but it's nothing that stuck in my head, nor did I write anything on my notes. The originator of this recipe must have had a reason, right? Oh well. Whether it's chicken or beef, it's just a plain old good soup.

This recipe came from a cooking class at Sur la Table, and was a compilation of some of the cooking school's "favorites." How could I not go to a class that culled through hundreds of cooking class recipes and pulled out the best of the best? Only one of the recipes was one where I'd attended the class (that was Joanne Weir's Sicilian Tuna Salad, which I've already posted here on my blog).

I'm a real sucker for soups. I've loved them always, but over the last 10 years or so I've found them to be such a time saver and they make a very full, tasty and easy meal. We don't eat many bean soups just because neither of us need the packed carbs at our age. But, I love vegetable soups, chicken soups, beef soups, squash soups too.

This one is a mixture of ground beef, escarole, fresh fennel, onions, and orzo pasta. A nice combination. If you don't know if you like fennel, trust me on this - fennel once cooked is very mellow. There isn't even an inkling of anise flavor in this soup once it's been simmered awhile. And, as always, this soup is much better the next day if you can plan ahead!
The soup also has one added touch that I'd never seen done before: just before serving you slice a plank of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, using a cheese plane, and place it in the bottom of the soup bowl. Then you ladle the hot soup on top and within a minute the cheese is mostly melted, although it doesn't "stir" into the soup at all. It's best when your spoon just lifts a little bit of the cheese with a bite of soup. Be sure to tell guests so they don't scrape the bottom and get an entire mouthful of cheese.

Actually, this time I used some ground chicken (a third) to this soup in addition to ground beef (two thirds). And I added some celery too, just, well, because. The soup is low in calorie, although I don't think this serves as many as the recipe indicates. We eat about 1 & 1/2 cups per serving, and I think the recipe assumes less. I made a double batch so I'd have leftovers. And this soup freezes well to join others in my soup library. That is, if there are any by the time we finish tonight's dinner.

Tuscan Chicken (no, Beef) Soup
Recipe By :Patty Padawar, cooking insructor
Servings: 8
3/4 pound lean ground beef -- or veal
1 small fennel bulb -- chopped
1 medium onion -- chopped
2-3 whole cloves garlic -- minced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups low sodium beef broth
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano -- crushed
2 whole bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
4 cups escarole -- shredded
4 ounces Parmesan cheese -- shaved in planks
salt -- to taste
1. In a large saucepan or pot, cook the ground beef, onions, fennel and garlic over high heat, stirring as needed for about 5 minutes, until meat is browned and vegetables are softened. Drain off excess fat.
2. Add broths, water and seasonings and simmer for 10 minutes. Bring up to a gentle boil, add the orzo and cook 10 more minutes, stirring twice.
3. Remove bay leaves, add the escarole and remove from the heat. Taste and add salt if needed, or more pepper. Stir to blend in. Divide the cheese planks into serving bowls, ladle the hot soup on the cheese and serve.
NOTES : To make cheese planks: use a cheese plane or sharp vegetable peeler. If you have leftovers, taste it when you reheat it as you may need to add additional water or broth.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 275 Calories; 13g Fat (43.8% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 586mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.
To print a PDF recipe only, click on title at top.

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