La Lama Mountain Ovens
The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.
This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.
Family Secrets #26
Chicken Based Soups
By CeCe Dove, La Lama Mountain Ovens
freezer stocked with homemade broth, serving up a
nutritious and absolutely delicious bowl of soup becomes
a simple matter. All of the really tedious work is behind
you and the next step is easy and can be fun.
Soup was a mainstay of our diet growing up. Often it served as a one dish meal, especially on busy days. However, on special occasions when a multi-course meal was called for, an elegant soup was always included as part of the feast.
Our sister Gloria was particularly adept at presenting a beautiful table for a special dinner. The table was always set with the finest linen, china, crystal and sterling. The first course was almost always a delicate soup served from the pure white tureen that all the brides received as a wedding gift back then. Because these meals were all served "family style" as opposed to "plated" as in a restaurant, it was critical to have the appropriate serving pieces. The soup tureen was considered essential to setting a proper table and every family owned one.
They came in many shapes, but every bride in our family received a large, white soup tureen as a wedding gift.
|A great deal of thought
went into the type of soup to be served at these festive
dinners. In addition to the antipasti and soup there
would follow a pasta course, a meat and vegetable course,
salad, and dessert. It was, therefore, essential that the
soup be not too filling but full of flavor and somehow
just a bit more special than the everyday soup. Two
favorites of our family were Crespelle en Brodo and
Crespelle are made exactly like a French crepe. They are a very thin, delicate pancake. They are dusted with finely grated Parmesan cheese, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and then rolled as tightly as possible into a thin cigar shape. Two or three of these are placed in the bottom of a wide shallow soup bowl and hot broth is ladled over them. They will immediately begin to absorb the broth and swell slightly. The combination is heavenly.
It is obvious where "Wedding Soup" got its name. Every bride started her wedding menu with this tradition. In addition to weddings this was a favorite at all sorts of family celebrations and was particularly welcome in the summer when fresh greens were to be had from the garden. In the winter we used our garden greens from the freezer; but with the year round availability of fresh greens today it is a soup to be enjoyed in all seasons. If you choose to use Swiss chard, remove the stalk and tough center rib. I like to add about half the stalks back in, slicing them thin, like celery and putting them into blanch for an extra minute or two.
Both of these soups demand a homemade broth. Canned broth will result in a pale imitation not worth bothering with. If you've made a chicken stock using the bones, rather than a chicken broth, from our recipe for Stock and Broth, I recommend that you thin it with about 10% water and it will serve well.
Crespelle en Brodo
Make the crespelle (12)
Using a blender is the quickest method but you could also use a hand whisk and strain the resulting batter. Place first five ingredients in blender and then add flour. Blend at highest speed for about one minute until well mixed, scraping down sides as needed. Let rest in refrigerator for at least one hour and up to four. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. If too thick, thin with additional water.
If you have a French crepe or omelet pan it is perfect for making these. You can also use a standard heavy bottomed eight inch skillet. Place the pan over fairly high heat. Brush the bottom with a thin film of butter, and just as it begins smoking, remove from heat and pour into the center a scant one-quarter cup of batter. Tilt quickly in all directions to film the bottom of the pan and pour out any batter that does not stick. Place on heat and cook until set, approximately one minute. Give a quick jerk on the pan's handle to loosen the crespelle, and then grab the edge nearest you with your fingers and flip over. The first cooked side, which is now up, should be an even ivory color. After flipping, cook an additional 15 seconds. The second side will be a spotted brown. This will be the inside of your roll. Slide onto a plate and continue making the remaining crespelle in the same manner. Often the first one will stick a little - consider it your trial and throw it out. In between crespelle wipe the pan with a paper towel and regrease it. As the heat in the pan evens out you should have no problems with sticking.
When all are completely cool you may cover them and hold for several hours. To finish them, you will need:
Place one crespelle on a plate. Dust with Parmesan and a few grinds of black pepper. Roll as tightly as you can into a cigar shape. Set aside, seam side down, and continue with the remainder. Cover until ready to use.
Bring nine cups of homemade chicken broth, or chicken stock diluted with water by 10%, to a boil. Then, if desired, transfer to a soup tureen as hot as possible. Place two crespelle in the bottom of a wide shallow soup dish and ladle the broth over them. Serve at once.
Make the meatballs:
Mix all ingredients together. This is most easily accomplished with your hands because you do not want to beat it or compact it too much. Form into very small meatballs, about the size of a large hazelnut. Chill for at least one hour. Brown lightly in a large heavy bottom skillet, being careful not to crowd them. Each batch should take about 10 minutes. They will finish cooking in the soup. Drain on paper towels, then refrigerate until ready to use. May be made one day ahead.
To finish soup:
If using fresh greens, wash well and blanch in a large pot of boiling water for three minutes. Refresh under cold water, then squeeze out as much moisture as you can and chop. This can be done one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place soup pot over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When warm, add the celery, onion, and carrots and cook until starting to soften, about seven to eight minutes. Adjust heat so they do not brown. Add the greens and about one teaspoon salt, stirring to coat all vegetables well. Cook for an additional two minutes. Add the meatballs and chicken broth, bring to a simmer, taste for seasonings and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve piping hot and pass a bowl of grated Parmesan for sprinkling on top.
Altitude Adjustment: None necessary.