When did March become the new January? Spring (according to the calendar) is a mere ten days away, and here we are, digging out from more weekend snow. We’ll probably have skiing until the end of April – which is great – but by this time of year, I’m ready to shed my winter coat and gloves and just lighten up already.
There’s no fighting Mother Nature. We can dress like it’s Spring, and eat like it’s Spring – but guess what? We’ll freeze. And so, I’ve settled into making my healthy version of homemade chicken soup until the weather breaks.
I’ve been making homemade chicken soup for years. My mother made it. She learned, I believe, mostly from our Italian relatives, specifically my Uncle Ralph, how to take the leftover bones from a chicken (or turkey, or whatever) and make it into a stock (or broth) which would become the base of your soup. Fast forward to today, where everyone is trying to add bone broth to their diets for its many benefits (speeds healing, fights inflammation, aids digestion, promotes strong healthy bones) – and I guess my mother was ahead of her time.
My “healthy” version of chicken soup is really an Italian Wedding Soup with a few twists. I always start my chicken soup by roasting a whole chicken or four bone-in organic chicken breasts in my clay pot. Wait – what’s a clay pot, you might be asking. Well, if you don’t know, it’s definitely time to find out. A clay pot roaster is just that – a roasting pan, made of clay. The bottom is glazed, but the top lid is not. You soak the top lid in water before roasting, and in the meantime, place your meat, vegetables and spices in the bottom. Place the whole thing in a cold oven, turn up the heat and the results are amazing. Everything comes out tender and delicious thanks to the steamy and even-temperature environment of the clay pot. I like to add fresh lemon, thyme and sage to my chicken. I layer the bottom of the clay pot with lemon slices. I also stuff the cavity of the chicken with lemon and fresh thyme and sage. I also brush the chicken with melted ghee and lemon zest.
After getting one dinner of roasted chicken out of the clay pot, it’s time to make bone broth. I reserve the excess chicken for the soup. Then, I toss the bones in one of my big soup pots. I cover with cold water, add whole black peppercorn and bring it to a boil. You may also add vinegar to help leech the minerals from the bones. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for at least four hours. Strain the broth through a sieve to ensure all of the bones and cartilage are removed from the broth.
From here, the rest is easy!
Assemble your ingredients:
2 Cups Chicken Breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 Carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
4 stalks of celery, trimmed and sliced
2 cups cooked wild rice
1 head escarole, cleaned very well and cut into strips
1 pound lean ground beef, rolled into small meatballs
Bring the broth back to a low boil.
Add carrots and celery. Cook until fork-tender. Add chicken. Stir in escarole. Cook until it turns bright green.
Add meatballs and stir until they are cooked through.
Add kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
I just know that one of these days, I’m going to look up from my bowl of chicken soup and see that the snow has melted, the robins have arrived and the trees have budded. In the meantime, I’m going to stay warm and healthy. And I hope you do too!
For more on how to make bone broth: Dr. Mercola’s Recipe For Bone Broth
For a clay pot roaster: Williams Sonoma Romertopf Cookware