First published in September 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. This popular soup began, as many great soups do, as a bit of a fridge dump. Add or subtract ingredients, and change up the escarole for another dark leafy green, but don't forget the parmesan cheese rind in this make-ahead-and-freeze soup. It makes all the difference.
For a few years -- I'll admit it now -- I was a stock snob.
Only homemade chicken stock would make the cut in my kitchen. No bouillion cubes, no cans, no boxes, no (gasp!) dehydrated powders. I made stock from raw chickens and roasted chickens. My freezer harbored baggies of necks and wing tips, and the occasional smashed carcass.
I felt virtuous.
And then, of course, the day came when I desperately wanted homemade soup, but had no homemade stock. Off I went to our village grocery store, where I read the labels on all of the cans and boxes of chicken broth. I purchased a few different ones, including organic, and did a little taste test. And I discovered Swanson's 99% Fat Free, which is lower in sodium and higher in taste than any of the packaged chicken broths I tried. (By the way, the packaged organic broth all tasted like dish water.)
I'm using the terms stock and broth interchangeably, though technically they might be different. In my unscientific way, I distinguish stock and broth by their intended use in my cooking. Both are liquids in which chicken and vegetables have been cooked. Stock will go on to form the basis of more complex dishes; I call it broth when I reduce the stock by one third, to a greater strength of flavor. Stock and broth often are made with chicken feet, necks or bones, which have a higher gelatin content that enriches the stock. More often, I make stock with the carcass of a roasted chicken, tossed in a pot with an onion, celery, carrot, a few black peppercorns and a bay leaf.
Now, I stock up on chicken broth in boxes and homemade stock in the freezer. Sometimes I combine them in my favorite soup recipes. My only caution: if using canned or packaged stock/broth, do not add any salt to your recipe before you taste. Some packaged stocks, even those marked low-sodium, are incredibly salty, and will provide all the salt you need for your recipe.
Chicken broth in a box will never be as virtuous as homemade broth, but you can't beat the convenience.
1-1/2 lb ground turkey
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tsp dried thyme leaf
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 large head escarole, washed, roughly chopped
6 oz ground or chopped canned tomato, or fresh tomato
4 cups chicken broth (low-sodium storebought, or homemade)
1 cup water, if needed to cover
1/4 cup small pasta (orzo, pilaf noodles, spaghetti broken into small pieces, etc.)
Rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the secret ingredient) -- any size you have
In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, and sauté ground turkey until no longer pink, 2-3 minutes.
Add onion, zucchini and mushrooms, and sauté until onions are translucent.
Stir in pepper flakes, oregano and black pepper. Add escarole, and stir to combine. When the escarole is just slightly wilted, add tomato and broth, pasta, and the cheese rind.
After the escarole has cooked down, add a cup or two of water, if the soup seems too thick. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. If you used homemade chicken broth, you may wish to add salt and more pepper, to taste.
Serve hot, or let cool completely, pack into small containers, and freeze.
Turkey "fridge dump" soup, from The Perfect Pantry
One-of-everything lentil soup, from The Perfect Pantry
Tortellini soup with escarole and zucchini, from Soup Chick
Escarole and orzo soup with turkey meatballs, from The Teacher Learns to Cook
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