So spring is right around the corner. Just a few short weeks until winter is behind us and I don’t have to worry about things like polar bears or the wife slipping on ice. It’ll be sad to see the season go, but with spring comes a vast array of colors and flavors that I kind of miss.
But I’m not here to gush over spring like I embarrassingly did last year. The winds have been howling and the nip is in the air with the occasional snow storm still passing through. So that tells me I have time to post about one more hearty soup! Sucks for you if you don’t like soup because I freaking love them and this is one of my favorites.
If there’s anything familiar about this soup, it’s probably because you've seen or had it before in The Italian Chain Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named. It’s ok, don’t be ashamed, we used to go there more often than not before we vowed to never go back again. And those last few times, the only reason why we found ourselves in their parking lot, let alone sitting in their chairs, was for this soup. That’s all we went for and that’s all we wanted (besides those stupid bread sticks). Unfortunately, the high standards of quality and service that they swear they hold were, not surprisingly, still at the level of my dog’s food. With everything so disappointing, I honestly don’t know why we kept going back. “It’s just for the soup”, we kept telling ourselves. But even though all they have to do is probably defrost a frozen block of soup and serve it, every time we went they managed to mess that up. I’ll save the rest of the details for my mandatory and way too over hyped Italian Chain Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named post that I promise is coming soon.
My point is that we went through a lot of crap just for this soup. And the last few times when it was disgustingly cold, watery, or plastic looking due to a poor attempt at thickening it up, it was just a slap on the face when I was already on the ground, not to mention disrespectful to what this soup should be.
So what did I do? Next time we had an urge for it, we went out to the store instead and bought the ingredients for it (which totaled give or take $12 depending where you go), and then I made it. And guess what? It’s effing amazing. I get to have as much as I want, it’s freshly made, I know who made it, I know what’s in it and best of all, I never have to step foot into The Italian Chain Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named, again.
- I’ve substituted heavy cream for the half and half before with no issues.
- You can get flexible with the chicken. If you have a couple of good sized breasts [holds in an immature giggle], you can go with those or if you want to just buy an already cooked, plain whole rotisserie chicken at your local supermarket then the ball is in your quart. You just need chicken; it doesn’t matter from what part of the chicken.
- I’ll talk about Gnocchi after the notes.
- I've made this a few times, but never with the nutmeg. But after reading comments from the original post, it seems like it’s worth a shot. Next time I make the soup I’ll definitely give it a go.
Alright, if you’re wondering what the heck a Ganockey is, listen up.
Gnocchi, pronounced noki, are basically small dumplings almost always made of potatoes along with flour and/or semolina. Made famous by Italian cuisine, they can be substituted for pasta if that tickles your fancy or they can be perfect little additions to a soup. If you've never had them, their consistency is like a very soft and chewy baked potato. They hold their shape nicely, just be careful not to overcook them. They’re fairly easy to make by hand, as I've seen them done in a matter of minutes by a cook I used to work with while he was busy making orders. But if you’re like me and just don’t have time for that, you can go to your local supermarket and pick up a package for around $5. I always find them in Target. They’re a great little ingredient and I use them far less than I should.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get it goin’:
Before you even think about making the soup, you’re going to make the chicken and have it ready. I made the chicken as I was making the soup and it felt like my brain was going to explode. It’s not difficult to manage; I just hate waiting for something to finish in order to finish something else that I could’ve finished if I wasn’t waiting for the original thing to finish in the first place.
Go ahead, reread that, I’ll wait.
- Ok, are we back now? Good. Turn on your oven to 350°. If you’re working with an already made rotisserie, then just ignore anything I say about making the chicken and go straight to tearing it apart.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, garlic and a little oil, and put them on a tray in the oven for a about 20-25 minutes or so depending on the size. Whenever the timer goes off, take them out and make sure they’re done before you let them cool. Once ready, just start ripping them apart with your hands. Keep them in uniform bite sized chunks and set them aside.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on to the soup.
- Oh! Put a 2 quart or so sized sauce pan filled with some salted water and set it to boil.
Alright, now the soup.
- Heat up the oil in your favorite soup pot and add the onions and garlic and cook until they’re sweated. Plop in the butter and wait until it melts before you add the flour. Give it a good stir and you’ll be able to call that clumpy mess a roux. Let the roux cook for a minute or two just to get the flour taste out.
If it starts burning the bottom of the pan then it was totally your fault because you had the heat up too high for the roux. See? This is why I talk you through things.
- No, don’t lower the heat now, it’s too late. As longs as it’s not too bad, go ahead and add the half and half and stir or (I recommend) whisk until the roux is incorporated. When you don’t see anymore roux floating around, add the carrots as well as the chicken that you didn’t have to worry about because you had it ready.
Geeze, could you imagine what you would’ve done to that roux if you were worrying about the chicken? I could almost hear the news report.
- Heat up what you have in the pot until it thickens up. Once it does, add the chicken broth, and give it a good stir.
- At this point, since the gnocchi only takes about 3 or 4 minutes to cook, go ahead and add the gnocchi to the boiling water that you probably already forgot why it was on the stove. I know, that roux really effed you up. When the gnocchi is done, just drain it and put it in something until it is needed.
- After you add the chicken broth to the soup, wait for it to thicken up once again. If it doesn’t magically happen just let it gently simmer while stirring and it should thicken up slowly. When it does, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, thyme, nutmeg if you’re using it, and some salt and pepper.
Give it a stir, give it a taste, does it need salt? Add salt. Does it need pepper? Add pepper. Seriously, do I have to hold your hand through everything? Rule of thumb: If you taste something and it doesn’t really taste the way you think it should taste, it’s probably because it’s bland. If something is bland, guess what? You have to add salt. Go a pinch at a time if you’re scared. Always remember you can add but you can never take away.
When the soup is heated through, that’s it, you’re done. Ladle it into some bowls, get a nice crusty loaf of bread or even some bread sticks if they don’t bring back too many suppressed memories, and enjoy the gnocchi out of this. If you were a fan of this soup before or if this is your first time making it, you’ll fall in love with how easy it is. You'll probably go into shock when you realize you can have this at home where you don’t have to worry about all the hassle and disappointment that comes with going to that place. Not to mention the fact that it tastes better because you just made it with your own two hands.