ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP (with escarole and meatballs, about 20 cups, serving 8 to 10 as a main course)
For the stock:
a whole roasted chicken carcass, meat removed and reserved
2 celery ribs, cut into 2 inch lengths
2 carrots, quartered
1 large onion, left unpeeled, trimmed and halved
2 garlic cloves
6 fresh parsley stems (without leaves)
1 Turkish bay leaf or ½ California bay leaf
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
4 quarts cold water
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
For the meatballs:
1 cup ¼ inch pieces Italian bread
1 cup whole milk
1 pound meat loaf mix (equal parts ground beef, pork and veal)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup finely grated pecorino Romano
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
about 2 cups vegetable oil
For the soup:
reserved chicken stock
5 cups water
1 large onion, cut into ¼ inch pieces
3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
one 3 by 2 inch piece pecorino Romano rind, about 1/3 inch thick (if you can’t find pecorino with the rind on it, substitute 1/3 cup finely grated cheese)
1 medium head escarole, tough stems discarded, leaves chopped (about 5 cups)
3 cups cooked chicken meat reserved from stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
finely grated pecorino Romano to accompany
1. Make the stock: Combine the chicken bones and scraps in a stockpot with salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim and scum that rises to the surface of the stock.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the stock and simmer, partly covered, 1-1/2 hours or more. Strain through a sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. If using stock immediately, skim off and discard fat. If not, cool stock completely, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered, until cold; remove congealed fat from chilled stock. You should have about 3 quarts stock; if you have less, add enough water to make 3 quarts.
3. Meanwhile, form and fry the meatballs: Stir together bread and milk in a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Add meat, garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper and blend with your hands just until well combined (do not overmix). Form scant tablespoons into meatballs; you will have about 60 (meatballs will be very moist).
4. Heat 1 inch oil in a 12 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Cook meatballs in 3 batches (do not overcrowd), turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
4. Make the soup: Return stock to cleaned pot and add 5 cups water. Add onion, carrots, celery and cheese rind to stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in escarole, cover, and bring to a boil. Add meatballs and simmer, uncovered, until escarole is very tender and meatballs are heated through, about 10 minutes. Discard cheese rind, stir in shredded chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese.
- The cooled stock can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days or frozen for up to one month. The soup can be made up to 4 days ahead. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered. The soup can also be frozen for up to 1 month (the meatballs will swell slightly).
- If you want to make the soup with an uncooked chicken: Rinse the uncooked bird under cold tap water, remove any excess fat and and any giblets stashed in the cavity, and place the chicken in a pot with 1 tablespoon salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken from the pot to a plate (reserve the stock) and set it aside until it is cool enough to handle. Discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones and shred the meat. Once the meat has cooled completely, cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to finish the soup. Return the bones to the pot and continue with the recipe at step 2.
- If your leftover chicken carcass doesn’t have enough meat on it to finish the soup: Buy 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts from your grocery, salt them and add them to the stock along with the water in step 4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and poach the chicken until the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate to cool, then shred it. Proceed with the rest of step 4.
adapted from Ruth Reichl, Gourmet Today